[guest post by Dana]
Justice Nathalie Lieven has ordered a disabled woman who is 22 weeks pregnant, to undergo an abortion due to her mental limitations (she has the mental capacity of a “grade-school” child). Lieven claims that this decision has been made with the woman’s best interest at heart:
“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,” said Justice Nathalie Lieven in her ruling in the Court of Protection, June 21.
“I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination,” Lieven explained, arguing that her decision is in the best interest of the woman.
The Court of Protection handles cases involving individuals judged to lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
The woman, who cannot been publicly identified, has been described as “in her twenties,” and is under the care of an NHS trust, part of the UK’s National Health Service.
Doctors at the trust wished to abort her pregnancy and argued that, due to her diminished mental capacity, the abortion would be less traumatic for the woman than giving birth, especially if the baby would then be placed in foster care.
This in spite of the young woman’s mother being against a forced abortion, and telling the court that she would take care of the baby herself:
Barrister John McKendrick, who is leading the legal team for the pregnant woman’s mother, says the court has “no proper evidence” that having an abortion will be beneficial to the pregnant mother. “Their evidence is premised on a narrow clinical view. The application must be dismissed,” McKendrick said. The pregnant woman’s mother has added that abortion strongly violates her family’s Catholic values and that she would raise her grandchild herself.
A social worker who works with the young woman also said the pregnancy should be allowed to continue.
Not good enough for Judge Lieven:
The judge said she did not believe the woman understood what it meant 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,” Lieven said.
Lieven also said she did not believe the woman’s mother, who already helps care for her daughter, would be able to offer care for a grandchild at the same time.
Without knowing the specifics of the mental disability (does she get violent, is she compliant, etc.), it’s as if the judge believes no one has ever taken care of more than one child at a time, or taken care of a young adult with a mental disability while providing care to a baby. If this is the real concern, and the young woman is under the care of the NHS, why not offer to provide home visits by nurses or health aides to assist the grandmother? Is this an impossible ask? If the woman is a practicing Catholic and attends church, would there be no effort made by parishioners to spend time helping her care for the baby and daughter? In my experience, coming alongside families in need is one of the best things church bodies do for those in their midst.
But to this court, terminating the baby’s life – a baby who is more than halfway through gestation – is the only viable option. It’s a neater and swifter fix to the problem. As if an abortion and its aftermath is not at all upsetting, painful, confusing, and an overall soul-crushing, heart-wrenching experience. How dare the court presume that this procedure will just be the simple excision of an intrusive interruption in the life of a young woman with diminished capacity. Nothing more than a little blip on the radar, as if the young woman doesn’t have a heart and a soul and a capacity for love.
The judge also decided that, along with giving birth, putting the baby up for adoption or placed into foster care would not be in the woman’s best interest. Again, the only viable option is ending the baby’s life because to the court, the baby in the womb obviously has no personhood:
“I think [the woman] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],” Lieven said, because “it would at that stage be a real baby.”
Lieven clarified that the pregnancy “although real to [the woman], doesn’t have a baby outside her body she can touch.”
So everything but allowing the woman to give birth to her baby is in her best interest. This exemplifies an unbelievable level of inhumanity, and overreach by the Court. Ending the life of innocents seems to be the face of the NHS and socialized medicine: Charlie Gard.
It’s insightful to read a little background on Lieven:
As a lawyer, Lieven has appeared in court before in cases concerning abortion. In 2011, while representing the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, an abortion provider, she argued that British women should be permitted to medically abort their pregnancies at their own homes instead of in a hospital.
Five years later, Lieven argued in court that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were a violation of the United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act.
In 2017, she said that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were akin to torture and were discriminatory.
The BBC reports on ethical arguments concerning the abortion of babies with disabilities here, and concludes the report with societal goals on the treatment of those with disabilities. As you read, keep in mind that in this case, it is the mother who has a mental disability, not the baby, and keep in mind the court’s rationale for their order to have the baby aborted:
Modern society believes certain things about people with disability:
People with disabilities should not be discriminated against in any way
Society should do everything reasonable to remove anything that gets in the way of disabled people playing a full part in ordinary life
Prejudice against disabled people is not acceptable
Stereotypes about disability should be eliminated
It’s all so ironic when you consider that the grandmother willingly gave birth to a baby who with a disability, and now the daughter with the disability is pregnant and being forced to abort her baby because there is simply no other viable option in the eyes of the court. And while the grandmother may not have known about the disability before she gave birth to her daughter, at some point after she became aware of it, and yet chose to keep the child and not put her into foster care or give her up for adoption. Thankfully, there are still people in this sad world who believe in love, no matter what form its arrival takes in their lives. And even though the grandmother said she would care for the baby – a baby who has not been identified with any disability and is perfectly innocent in every way – according to the court, that is not enough to escape death. The baby must not be allowed to live. The grandmother, whose faith prohibits the taking of innocent life and who chose to love and care for her disabled daughter, is irrelevant.
P.S. According to reports, there is an ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)