court of protection uk catholic abortion
Ethics & Morality

How can a court force a Catholic woman to abort her child?

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel Gabriel, on hearing she was pregnant and not fully understanding.

“O, if you don’t fully understand what it means, better to have an abortion,” said the Judge in the Sanhedrin.

“But I want my baby,” objected Mary, who had the mental age of about 12 years old.

“Yes, but you don’t fully understand, do you?” the Judge insisted. “I think you would like to have a baby in the same way you would like to have a nice doll.”

“O, that isn’t so at all,” interjected Anne, Mary’s mother. “My daughter may not fully understand what having a baby means, but I’ll be there to help her raise it, and so will Joachim, my husband, her father, the baby’s grandfather. I am the baby’s grandmother. I understand what having a baby means. I want to see my grandchild,” she pleaded, with tears in her eyes.

“Yes, yes, it is a bit difficult” the Judge answered wearily. “I am mindful that this is a slight intrusion, but I have to act in Mary’s best interests and consider the risks posed by her psychological limitations. She is just a child, with the mental understanding of a child. If her baby lives with its grandparents, Mary might have to leave her home. The baby might also have to live with foster carers or be placed for adoption.”

“O, no, not at all,” replied Anne. “The baby is very much wanted and loved. I have felt it kicking in my daughter’s womb. It is part of me, part of us, a member of my family. My daughter may not fully understand — ”

“I think Mary would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed,” the Judge interrupted. “It would at that stage be a real baby. Pregnancy, although real to her, doesn’t have a baby outside her body she can touch. I’m sorry, but your daughter doesn’t fully understand what having a baby means. Her own words are ‘How will this be?’, so, for all her smiles, she plainly doesn’t understand.”

And so the order was handed down from the Sanhedrin that the baby must be aborted.

When Mrs Justice Nathalie Lieven in the UK Court of Protection can force a Roman Catholic mother in her 20s to abort her healthy baby in the womb – a baby which is 22 weeks in gestation and wanted by its mother, insofar as a woman with a mental age of about nine years old can understand what that means; and also wanted by its grandmother, a former midwife, who has offered to help raise the child and understands very clearly what it means – we have reached an unacceptable point of intrusion into the family, and gross insensibility to the religious conscience.

The NHS trust argues that the baby must be aborted due to the mother’s diminished mental capacity. The abortion would be less traumatic for the woman than giving birth, they say, especially if the baby subsequently had to be placed in foster care.

So it is better to kill the baby in the womb than risk the under-appreciated trauma of birth, and the unknown possibility of having to give the baby up for adoption. What about the traumatic psychological effects of abortion?

The unborn child has no right to life, of course: it does not exist, except as a clump of cells parasitically feeding of its host.

The youngest girl ever to give birth was Lina Marcela Medina de Jurado, who had her baby at the age of five years, seven months, and 21 days. She gave birth to a healthy son, delivered by caesarean section. She obviously didn’t fully understand what was going on, but she understood sufficiently. The baby was named Gerardo, after her doctor Gerardo Lozada. Lina Medina is now 85 years old. She was permitted to give life to her son, and they all managed to cope, as families somehow do.

If not “fully understanding” what it means to have a baby is a new criterion for the justification of abortion, then babies can now be terminated not only because of a woman’s mental illness or disability, but mental apprehension. What first-time mother (or father) understands fully what it means to have a baby? What newly-pregnant woman foreknows her disposition or possesses an objective picture of her character in the new moral field of life-giving? Who fully knows whether they are likely to break down under the strain? Who fully understands the delicate equilibrium of their emotional stability and mental health?

One wonders (though one isn’t permitted to ask such things) if a male judge sitting in the Court of Protection would have imposed an abortion upon a Catholic mother, or if Mrs Justice Lieven might not have a slight activist agenda.

It might be inconvenient, but this is not an unwanted pregnancy, nor is it an unwanted baby. There is no doubt or self-pity: the family wants to bring a new life into the world; a gift from God, a sign of grace. Their bodies are not their own; they were bought at a price. Therefore they seek to glorify God with their bodies, including the contents of a womb.

But one woman’s secular legal judgment is imposed upon two Catholic women’s belief in the sanctity of life. No unwanted child ought ever to be born, Mrs Justice Lieven believes, and certainly not one to a woman who doesn’t fully understand what giving birth means and what having a baby entails, even if that child is fully wanted by its grandmother.

For a Roman Catholic family, this isn’t just the termination of a foetus, but the murder of a baby; a fully human person knitted together in the image of God. The judge’s decision to enforce an abortion is devoid of discernment, morality and compassion. But there may be no time for an appeal: the legal limit for abortion in the UK is 24 weeks. Unless, of course, the woman’s mental impairment means that the child will have no ‘quality of life’ – even with its loving grandmother, surrounded and supported by the family of God.


UPDATE 18.30

The Press Association (via Premier) reports that this decision has been overturned:

Doctors must not be allowed to perform an abortion on a pregnant mentally-ill woman, Court of Appeal judges have ruled.

A judge on Friday concluded that a pregnancy termination was in the woman’s best interests.

Mrs Justice Lieven had analysed evidence at a hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London.

But three appeal judges on Monday over-ruled that decision after the woman’s mother, a former midwife, mounted a challenge.

Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson had considered the challenge at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

They said they would give reasons for their decision at a later date.

Lawyers said they thought the circumstances of the case were unique.

Praise the Lord!

Thank God for Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson.

Two men..