LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A Scottish bishop has appealed to the UK Health Secretary to intervene in a case where a judge has ordered a woman to have an abortion against her will.
On Friday, Justice Nathalie Lieven ordered that a 22-week-pregnant mentally disabled woman be forced to have an abortion, despite the objections of the woman and the assurances of her family that they would care for the child.
The woman has not been identified, but her family is from Nigeria and she is said to have the mental age of a 6- to 9-year-old child. The family is Catholic.
Her doctors have argued that having an abortion is in the woman’s “best interest,” since they say it would be less traumatic than giving birth and having the child placed in foster care.
The woman’s mother, who is a midwife, has offered to care for her grandchild and says the doctors have “underestimated her [daughter’s] ability and understanding.”
In Britain, disagreements between medical personnel and the families of those assessed with not having an appropriate mental capacity often end up in court.
“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,” Lieven said. “I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.”
The judge then said the woman “would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll.”
Bishop John Keenan of Paisley urged people to express their “strong objection” to the decision by signing a petition sponsored by Right To Life UK.
He also appealed to Matt Hancock, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health, to personally intervene in the case on behalf of the woman.
“The decision is wrong on so many levels, and it introduces a dangerous new development in the overreach of the power of the state over its citizens,” Keenan said in a video released by the pro-life group.
“It’s a wrong decision that has to be changed, not just in the interests of this woman and her child, but in the interests of everyone who believes in choice in this country, in the interests of everyone who believes in the prerogatives and the rights of citizens over the State,” the bishop said.
The decision was also condemned by Bishop John Sherrington, the lead bishop for life issues at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“Forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will, and that of her close family, infringes her human rights, not to mention the right of her unborn child to life in a family that has committed to caring for this child. In a free society like ours there is a delicate balance between the rights of the individual and the powers of the state,” he said.
“This is a sad and distressing decision for the whole family whom we keep in our prayers. This case, for which all the 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,” Sherrington said.
This story has been updated with the statement from Bishop John Sherrington.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome
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