Forced abortion judge did not take woman's feelings into account

Women protest outside Parliament against forced abortion(Photo: Right to Life UK)

The court order to force a woman with a learning disability to have an abortion was overturned because it did not take her feelings into consideration, the official judgement reveals.

The unnamed woman was 22 weeks pregnant when Justice Nathalie Lieven, in the Court of Protection, ruled that an abortion should take place in line with the recommendations of her doctors. 

The doctors had petitioned the court to allow the abortion to go ahead, arguing that it was in the woman's "best interests" because of her mental disability. 

They claimed that she would find it easer to recover from an abortion than the possible separation from her child if it were to be taken into care at a later stage. 

The termination went against the wishes of the woman's mother, a Catholic, and her social worker.  Her mother, a former midwife, had also promised to take care of the baby.

In a dramatic last minute reversal, the court ruling was overturned by three Appeal judges even as the pre-operative stage of the procedure was underway. 

The official judgement has now been released and says that there was not sufficient evidence to justify a "profound invasion" of the woman's rights.

The ruling allows that the judge placed an emphasis on the lack of clarity around the pregnant woman's wishes, but says that her feelings should have been "factored into the balancing exercise". 

"The judge placed emphasis on the fact that (the woman's) wishes were not clear and were not clearly expressed," said Lady Justice King. 

"She was entitled to do that but the fact remains that (the woman's) feelings were, as for any person, learning disabled or not, uniquely her own and are not open to the same critique based upon cognitive or expressive ability.

"(The woman's) feelings were important and should have been factored into the balancing exercise.

"In the end, the evidence taken as a whole was simply not sufficient to justify the profound invasion of (the woman's) rights represented by the non-consensual termination of this advanced pregnancy."

Naomi Marsden, policy officer at Christian advocacy group CARE, said that the original judgement still points to a "worrying trajectory". 

"Although this judgement was mercifully overturned, it does indicate the existence of a worrying trajectory in our society where abortion is viewed as the only, necessary outcome," she said. 

"Looking at the judgement, the medical professionals looking after the woman appear to have given little consideration of the potentially traumatic effects of termination on the woman's mental health.

"Instead it was continuing the pregnancy that appeared to them to entail the greater risks to her psychological wellbeing." 

She continued: "This is in keeping with the predominant perception in the medical profession and wider culture that abortion does not entail any mental health detriment. This is despite the fact that evidence suggests that there is no mental health benefit from having an abortion, and that it, in fact, entails an increased risk to a woman's psychological health.

"Given that Justice Lieven is a well-known proponent of abortion and has previously represented [abortion provider] BPAS, it seems that an ideological belief that abortion is a necessary therapeutic outcome almost won the day." 


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