Doctors must not abort mentally-ill woman's baby, appeal judges rule

The Court of Appeal overturned a decision made in the Court of Protection

The Court of Appeal overturned a decision made in the Court of Protection

- A British judge ordered Friday that an abortion be performed on a mentally disabled woman who is 22 weeks pregnant, despite objections from the woman and her mother.

They said there was a risk to the pregnant woman's psychiatric health if pregnancy continued and they feared her behaviour could pose a risk to a baby.

But, she added, she had to act in the woman's "best interests, not on society's views of termination". "We are calling on the Department of Health to urgently reveal how many women have been forced to have an abortion in the United Kingdom over the last 10 years and make it clear how they will ensure it will not happen again".

Doctors who cared for the woman argued that due to her mental capacities, either natural labor or cesarean section delivery could damage her mental health.

Doctors argued that an abortion was in the woman's "best interests", but her social workers disagreed.

Lieven even admitted her ruling was "an enormous intrusion" into the woman's private life, but moved forward anyway because - in her opinion - the pregnant mother doesn't understand her situation.

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Her mother offered to support her through the pregnancy and help her care for the child once it's born, as she is opposed to termination, however Justice Lieven rejected the idea.

Although the woman feels pregnant enough, Lieven wrote, she "doesn't have a baby outside her body she can touch" - the implication being that the woman doesn't understand the situation. She added that the mother "would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed" to be adopted than from an abortion.

The judge also suggested that the woman's mother, believed to be a former midwife from Nigeria, may return to her home country at some point. The woman, who has not been identified, is reportedly in her 20s and is of Nigerian descent.

The court decision was "sad and distressing", John Sherrington, a bishop in the Catholic diocese of Westminster, said on Monday. Such a ruling could not occur in a vacuum - it exposes a culture of devaluation of human life and prejudice toward individuals with disabilities, right up to the most elite levels of society. "This case, for which all information is not available, 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".

It is unclear how the woman fell pregnant and a police investigation into the circumstances of conception is ongoing.

It has been a controversial decision, with groups on both side of the abortion debate reacting strongly.

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