On Friday, the Catholic Herald reported the story of a woman with a ‘moderately severe’ learning disorder who has been ordered by a court to have an abortion despite her wishes to keep the baby and the stated desire of the woman’s mother to care for the baby. You can read the full story here. You can also read a report from the Independent, here, which seems to recount the pertinent facts in the same way.
The doctors have determined that it is in the woman’s best interest to have the baby aborted. The woman’s social worker disagrees. The mother of the pregnant woman also disagrees, arguing that the woman has more capacity to understand than for which she is being given credit. Entirely apart from that matter, the mother of the woman has stated her desire to look after the baby herself so that it may be kept with the family.
But to all this, a judge has said no. Mrs Justice Lieven has ruled that it would be too difficult for the grandmother to look after her daughter and the new baby. But it is hard to fathom quite why that is a judge’s call. If the grandmother insists she has capacity, one would like to believe that she would be in the best position to know – not least as she has been caring for her own daughter and is well acquainted with whatever is involved.
Perhaps worst of all, Mrs Justice Lieven stated she was:
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
Nevertheless, proceed to rule as such she has. The woman must have a termination when she doesn’t want it. This despite the fact, if capacity to care for the child really is in view, another family member has committed to caring for the baby. A woman is being told she cannot have the baby she wants, the family are being told they can’t care for the baby they want and are willing to care for and the social worker is being told she doesn’t know what she is talking about. Only the doctors – who will have interacted with her far less – will be heard. The judge has decided – against the mother’s and wider family’s wishes – an abortion would be less traumatic than having the baby and giving it up for adoption (even, apparently, adoption within the same family).
If the judge really does grasp the ‘immense intrusion’ of this decision, she seems not to grasp the awful ramifications of such a position. We are now at the point where the state can enforce abortion on those who simply do not want them. The ground for doing so seems to be little more than revved up eugenics dressed up as the best interest of the mother. But in the name of her best interest, the state are insisting upon aborting the child that she wants and that her family both wants and is willing to care for. Argument advanced as to what the woman wants, and what the family want and are able to do, are simply brushed away. The state has determined what is in her interest and who can resist the will of the state?
Regardless of the grounds on which this case has been decided, this sets a terrifying precedent. The state may now overrule the family in matters of family life. The state may prescribe who can and cannot have children, in their best interests, of course. If the state can overrule in such matters as basic as who may or may not have children, what else will they not see as their right to determine for anyone else?
God have mercy.
Update: this case has now been overturned on appeal. See here for further details.