A judge has ruled that a woman with learning difficulties must have an abortion, after her GP discovered she was 12 weeks pregnant.
Mr Justice Williams, sitting at the Court of Protection, made the ruling, stating that it was in the woman's "best interests" to have an abortion.
The woman is described as having the mental age of a toddler, and the judge described how the pregnancy has led to her behaving in a “somewhat more aggressive fashion”.
A police investigation is currently underway, as it is suspected that the woman may have been raped or made pregnant by a man with a learning disability, who lacked capacity to understand his actions. A DNA test will be carried out to identify the father.
Doctors at an NHS hospital trust have asked the judge to allow them to perform a surgical abortion, and he gave permission for medical professionals to restrain her if necessary, in order to administer general anaesthetic.
Forced abortion is back, but circumstances different
In this case, the circumstances are different.
Firstly, both the woman’s medical professionals and social workers are in agreement that an abortion is in her best interests. In the previous case, the social worker disagreed with the doctors that an abortion was the right option for the woman in question.
Secondly, the woman’s foster carers also agree that an abortion is in her best interests. In the previous case, the woman’s mother was staunchly opposed to the abortion and had said she would raise the child.
Thirdly, there is no evidence of the woman’s reaction to her pregnancy in this case, except that it has made her more “aggressive.” In the former case, the woman was very positive about her pregnancy and appeared to be attached to her baby. This was a deciding factor in the case, as it was determined on appeal that the first judge had not factored the woman’s feelings into account.
Whilst little information is currently known about the details of the case, it does appear that the extenuating circumstances are different, and the wishes of the woman herself, and those who care for her, are all factors that would have been taken into account in the decision reached by Mr Justice Williams.
It is unclear at present if the case will be appealed, but given that there is no opposition from the woman’s foster parents or social workers, it seems unlikely.
CARE’s Communications Officer, Naomi Marsden, responds:
“We recognise the extremely sensitive circumstances of this case, and that it is very difficult for judges to handle such issues – particularly if rape is involved.
However, it remains incredibly concerning that a forced abortion has yet again been recommended by a judge in England – even before an investigation has established the cause of the pregnancy.
Once again, abortion is seen as a solution, without any recognition of the long-term effect such a procedure will have on the woman mentally and physically. There is no evidence that abortion has any therapeutic benefit compared to continuing with pregnancy.
Significantly, it is not clear what the woman’s wishes are in the case. Yes, she lacks mental capacity to make a decision, but her feelings are of crucial importance. Forcing an abortion on her is, as the judge acknowledges, a “significant interference” in her bodily autonomy – an interference that potentially may conflict with her will. The image of her being held down by medical professionals is immensely distressing, and those who argue that a woman’s bodily autonomy is sacrosanct ought to be up in arms about this.
Of course, the rights of the preborn baby are completely ignored in this case. Instead, another defenceless life is snuffed out, in favour of a prevailing ideology that sees abortion as the best outcome, particularly for women with disabilities.