On Monday, three appeal judges overturned a decision issue by Justice Lieven, which would have forced an intellectually disabled woman to abort her child, after the woman’s mother requested a review of the ruling. Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King, and Lord Justice Peter Jackson reversed the decision in London’s Court of Appeals today. The reasons for this decision have not yet been released, but we do now know that this mother and her baby will be safe and she will be allowed to continue her pregnancy.
Before today, a British judge with a long personal history of supporting abortion rights had ordered a pregnant disabled woman to have an abortion against her wishes. The state decided it knew better than an adult woman and her mother who takes care of her and attempted to make this life and death decision for a child. This was a violation of the woman’s body and rights, as well as the child’s right to life, and both pro-life and pro-choice people ought to unite in denouncing this evil. The state told this woman that she had no choice in protecting her baby, and a judge tried to take away her autonomy. No case could further demonstrate the dangers that lie at the end of the eugenics behind pro-abortion policies than this devastating example.
Justice Nathalie Lieven is a judge in the UK’s Court of Protection, a court set up to handle cases for UK residents without the intellectual capability to make decisions for themselves. The woman in question has most of the details about her redacted to protect her identity, but we do know that she is in her twenties, her mother is Nigerian, and she is Catholic (as is her mother). She is also currently 22 weeks pregnant. She is also under an NHS trust, which is part of the National Health Service. The social worker responsible for caring for this woman has said that maintaining her pregnancy is in the woman’s best interests. This same NHS service was responsible for the decisions that led to the tragic death of Alfie Evans last year.
Why Was the State Making Life or Death Decisions?
NHS doctors want to end this woman’s pregnancy because they believe that her intellectual disabilities mean that an abortion would be less traumatic for her than having her baby. Her mother, whose identity is also obscured to protect her daughter, has been reported to be a former midwife and has told the courts that she would be happy to care for both her daughter and her grandchild. Despite this, the doctors and lawyers involved have decided that this would be too “burdensome” for this woman and that the baby, if allowed to be born, should go to foster care.
This means that a child, who has never been neglected or abused, could be slated for foster care simply because the mother is disabled and the grandmother is the mother’s caretaker. Arguments for abortion in this case also hinge on this idea, with the baby’s potential removal being cited as more traumatic for the mother than the child’s death via abortion.
The statements from Justice Lieven are chilling. Released in a ruling from the Court of Protection on June 21, she says, “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.” In addition, “I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.” Yet, Lieven herself has argued in favor of abortion on multiple occasions while she was a lawyer, notably in 2011, 2016, and 2017.
Believing that a mother’s disability means that her child is better off dead is tragic. Believing and fighting to override this woman’s wishes for her own baby—that this child be born—because she is disabled should be a wrong everyone can agree on. This judge’s push for an abortion certainly isn’t this mother’s choice; it robs her of choice. We don’t currently know the conditions surrounding the conception of this baby and UK officials are supposedly looking into it, but we do know that this woman and her family want this baby. That ought to be enough for everyone to unite behind her and support her in keeping this child, not an opportunity for some Orwellian court to override her desires and schedule an abortion anyway.
Choice and Consent Were Nearly Violated
We need answers on why this court tried to override the woman’s social worker, her mother who is caring for her, and the woman herself. Why was this judge trying to decide that the baby has no worth and is better off removed from this woman’s life? The pro-choice crowd always tells us should be a personal decision, between a woman and her doctor, but this is the state attempting to override that choice.
The baby is currently nearing or at viability. This means the child can almost survive if born today and given competent medical care. The mother might not currently be able to see, touch, or hold her baby, but at 22 weeks she’s able to feel her child move within her. She’s able to feel her little one stretch and turn, experience times of being asleep and awake. Her child already has a personality, all of the tiny fingers and toes and facial features developed—this is a real baby. In the UK, the University College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London has a 70 percent survival rate for babies born at 23 weeks, a mere matter of days passed this mother’s current gestation.
There is no mention of imminent danger to baby or mother or reason why deliver needs to happen today or tomorrow or even next week. Every day that her pregnancy continues is another day of maturity and better outcomes for baby, increasing the chances of both survival and a bright future. If we’re truly concerned about what’s best for mom, here, then we need to consider that this mother wants her baby. Whether she fully understands what it is to be a mother or not is outside the issue; she deserves help, not state intrusion into a matter as personal as this one.
A similar case in the USA in 2012 ended with a Nevada court deciding that the woman, who also had similar disabilities, “has the right to voice her desire about such a choice, and we responsible for her care have the obligation to listen and to give effect to her desires when appropriate…It is apparent that the risks to either Ms. Bauer or her fetus are not so overwhelming as to compel termination of her pregnancy.”
Thankfully, the decision was just overturned, and this woman can now choose life for her baby.