Controversial Ruling Forces Woman With Mental Disability & Mood Disorder To Have An Abortion

In a controversial ruling made on June 21st, a UK court ordered that a mentally disabled woman must have an abortion, despite opposition from the pregnant woman, her mother, and her social worker.

The UK’s Court of Protection, which makes legal decisions for individuals who are not seen as capable of doing so for themselves, determined the young woman did not properly understand what raising her child would entail, and thus, that she would be unfit to do so. The decision came after the woman’s doctors argued that the pregnancy and childbirth alone would cause the unidentified woman too much mental duress, let alone the stress it takes to raise a child.

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“I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” Justice Nathalie Lieven said when making the decision.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the pregnant woman, whose name has not been released to the media, has been diagnosed with a “moderately severe” learning disorder. She also has a mood disorder that has left her with the mental age of a 6 to 9-year-old. The woman, who is of Nigerian descent and in her mid-20s, is approximately 22 weeks along. The circumstances leading up to her pregnancy remain unclear.

The decision is even more controversial given that the woman’s mother made it clear she intended to help her daughter raise the child, so the pregnant woman already has a strong support system to help her. Still, the judge felt this was not enough and it would still cause too much mental duress on the expectant woman to become a mother.

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“I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the State to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion,” Justice Lieven said in defence of her decision. “I have to operate in [her] best interests.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a UK court has made a controversial decision regarding a woman’s reproductive rights. In 2015, the court ordered that a 36-year old with an IQ of 70 be sterilized, arguing it was in her best interest.

Unsurprisingly, this newest case has received immense backlash- including from the British Catholic Church. The religious organization released a statement condemning the ruling. Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster described it as “a sad and distressing decision” that “raises serious questions about the meaning of ‘best interests’ when a patient lacks mental capacity and is subject to the court’s decision against her will.” Additionally, over 75,000 people signed an online petition calling for U.K. Health and Social Care Secretary Matthew Hancock to intervene.

After intense criticism from the public, the original ruling was sent for appeal, where it has since been overturned. On June 24th, the English Court of Appeal repealed the previous ruling, saying the details of the case were “unique” (although they have yet to release a full statement). We’re glad the pregnant woman in question is now able to make her own choices regarding her reproductive rights, something many women are still fighting for around the world.

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