A British judge ruled on Friday that a mentally disabled woman should be forced to have an abortion against the wishes of her and her mother.
The woman is in her 20s and has developmental disabilities and a mood disorder. She said that she wants to have the baby, which she has been carrying for 22 weeks. Her mother said that abortion is unacceptable to their Catholic faith, and assured the court she would help care for her future grandchild.
However, Court of Protection Judge Nathalie Lieven said that she was acting in the woman’s best interest. She refused to take moral objections to abortion into consideration.
“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,” she said. “[But] I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.”
Lieven doubted that the woman, who along with her mother was kept anonymous, really understands what it means to have a baby.
“I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” she said.
The woman is said to have the mental capacity of an elementary schooler. She is under the care of a National Health Service Trust.
Police are reportedly investigating whether she was impregnated consensually.
What kind of judge forces a woman to have an abortion?
As a judge on the U.K. Court of Protection, Lieven hears cases involving people deemed intellectually incapable of making decisions for themselves.
Before being appointed as a High Court judge in January, Lieven reportedly fought abortion restrictions as a lawyer. She has called Northern Ireland’s abortion laws a violation of the U.K. Human Rights Act and compared them to torture, according to The Catholic News Agency.
In the United Kingdom, abortion is fully legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that point, doctors must certify that the procedure is medically justified.
Human rights activists silent
British pro-life activists condemned Lieven’s ruling. The charity Life said in a Facebook post that the decision was “truly horrendous,” and commenters tended to agree.
One exception to the relative silence on the left was Harold Braswell, a healthcare ethicist at St. Louis University. As the son of a disabled mother, he called out his fellow secular liberals in an article Saturday for Tablet magazine, saying “this ruling should be recognized as evil by anyone.”
“It is baldly “anti-choice,” and fails even the thinnest liberal commitments of opposing bigotry and protecting minorities,” he said. “It shows an utter lack of creativity, a disturbing closure to the dynamism of life, an unwillingness to even minimally accommodate difference.”
Braswell added: “Thus, though this story began as yet another entry in the so-called ‘culture wars,’ my hope is that it end up somewhere else: as a ‘unicorn,’ the rare, perhaps impossible, issue that really everyone can agree is bad.”
*see full story by the Pluralist