Pro-life campaigners have petitioned Parliament after a British judge known for abortion activism ordered a Nigerian Catholic mother with a learning disability to terminate the life of her 22-week child against her will.
The mother suffers from “moderately severe” learning difficulties and a mood disorder and has “the mental age of six-to-nine year old.” She is in her twenties and is in the custody of Britain’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS).
Both the pregnant woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, and her mother said they do not want the child aborted. A government social worker who helps care for the mother is also opposed to the late-term abortion.
The pregnant woman’s mother is a former midwife and a practising Catholic from the Nigerian Igbo tribe who has categorically stated that the abortion goes against her faith. She has expressed her willingness to care for the child with the help of her daughter and social workers.
However, Mrs Justice Nathalie Lieven ruled that an abortion is in the woman’s best interests after authorities at the NHS trust responsible for the woman’s care asked the courts to let doctors perform an abortion.
Lieven said she thought the mother “would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll.”
At a hearing in the Court of Protection, London, where issues relating to people lacking the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, Lieven said she thought the mother “would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll.”
Conceding her judgement was anti-choice, Lieven said: “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.”
The ruling has even outraged pro-abortionists.
Ann Furedi, UK’s best-known abortion activist and CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS is Britain’s equivalent of Planned Parenthood) tweeted: “[I]n principle, forced abortion is as bad as forced pregnancy. Both undermine the principles of moral autonomy & bodily integrity.”
John Deighan, deputy chief executive of the Society for Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) compared the ruling to “how people with mental health issues were treated in the 1930s of Nazi Germany.”
But Catholic Bishops in England and Wales only responded to the ruling after the Catholic Herald tweeted: “Their relative silence has dismayed our readers in both the UK and US.”
Bishop John Sherrington, auxiliary bishop of Westminster with responsibility for life issues, issued a statement: “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.”
However, Damian Thompson, editor-in-chief of Catholic Herald tweeted back his dissatisfaction: “Statement from @catholicEW on the disgusting forced abortion: late, unmemorable, entirely lacking in righteous anger. The bare minimum. Pathetic.”
Caroline Farrow, Catholic pro-lifer and UK campaign director for CitizenGO, has launched a petition to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, urging him “to prevent this gross injustice being inflicted by the State on this family and ensure this woman is not forced to have an abortion.”
“This grotesque ruling is utterly barbaric. The judge has decided that it is better for a mother that her child be forcibly killed in a gruesome and traumatic late-term abortion than to be born and adopted into a loving family,” Mrs Farrow told Church Militant.
This a horrific decision which is ironically uniting together the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers.
Over 61,000 people have so far signed the CitizenGO petition, which is being supported by John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley. In a video statement, Bishop Keenan from Glasgow, Scotland, called the judgement “a horrific decision which is ironically uniting together the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers.”
Appealing directly to Health Secretary Hancock to use his executive powers to stop the abortion from going ahead, Bishop Keenan said the ruling “introduces a dangerous new development in the overreach of the power of the state over its citizens.”
However, Justice Lieven has said that the woman would suffer more distress if the baby was taken away than if pregnancy was terminated. “I think (she) would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed,” said the judge. “It would at that stage be a real baby.”
The judge added: “Pregnancy, although real to her, doesn’t have a baby outside her body she can touch.”
Lieven has a history of pro-contraception and pro-abortion activism.
In 2005, she represented the Family Planning Association, arguing that parents are not necessarily the best people to advise a child on contraception, sexually transmitted infections and abortions—and do not have a right to know if their children under 16 are seeking treatment.
In 2011, she represented BPAS, Britain’s largest abortion provider, fighting for abortions-at-home and arguing that women should be allowed to self-administer the second dose of abortion drugs at home.
From 2015 to 2018, she argued against Northern Ireland’s near-blanket ban on abortion, claiming that it breached rights to freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination and entitlements to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Given her previous advocacy for aggressive abortion ‘rights’, it is clear that the judge was unable to apply an objective lens when considering this case. It is a scandal that she did not recuse herself,” Farrow told Church Militant.
Given her previous advocacy for aggressive abortion ‘rights’ it is a scandal that she did not recuse herself.
She added: “No government ought to be able to force a woman to have an abortion against her wishes and it sets a terrifying precedent that if a woman is deemed incapable of consenting to pregnancy or unable to care for her child then abortion is the default option.”
Internationally acclaimed pro-lifer Obianuju Ekeocha, who has joined the fight for the baby’s life spoke to Church Militant: “As a Nigerian Catholic woman living in the UK, finding out about this has been gut wrenching. We come from a pro-life culture and we recognise and respect life at every stage of development.”
“The baby is already accepted by the grandmother. The baby even while in the womb is already a part of the family. So it is reprehensible that a judge in the UK should order the killing (abortion) of the child.”
“This is what happens when a society embraces the ideology of abortion,” said Ekeocha, founder-president of Culture of Life Africa.
According to Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, an abortion may be performed up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
Speaking to Church Militant on condition of anonymity a law professor at a prestigious British university noted: “The ruling shows the way in which secular thinking has taken over family law, and not in a good way.”
“Things have come to a pretty pass where it’s regarded as unexceptionable to order an abortion, if necessary forcibly subduing the mother, sedating her and carrying her under restraint into hospital, despite the fact that she wants to have the baby, the baby is healthy, and there’s someone willing to look after it.”
Pro-lifers are demonstrating tomorrow at 6:30pm in front of George V’s statue opposite the Houses of Parliament in London.
A Court of Appeal has now ruled that doctors must not perform an abortion on a mentally disabled woman against her will, after the pregnant woman’s mother challenged the ruling.
Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson had considered the challenge at a Court of Appeal hearing in London earlier on Monday.
An obstetrician and two psychiatrists earlier said a termination was the best option because of the risk to the woman’s daughter’s mental health if pregnancy continued.
Mrs Justice Nathalie Lieven, who has a history of pro-abortion activism, had order a termination in the “best interests” of the woman.
Barristers John McKendrick QC and Victoria Butler-Cole QC, who represented the woman at the appeal hearing, argued Justice Lieven’s decision was wrong and should be overturned.
A pro-life law professor who spoke earlier to Church Militant hailed the decision of the Appeals Court. He explained that because English Common Law works on the principle of precedent, if Justice Lieven’s decision was allowed to stand, the legal precedent would be established that the judiciary has the authority to order forced abortions, overruling mother’s consent and the Catholic beliefs of the family.
(Originally published in Church Militant. To comment on this piece, click here)