Mr. Justice Hedley, presiding at the Court of Protection at London’s High Court, has ruled against a request made by NHS doctors that they be allowed to forcibly abort the baby of a disabled mother.
‘Mr. Justice Hedley ruled that the child should not be killed, saying that even if his mother cannot care for him, society has the ability. Hedley, ruling for the Court of Protection at London’s High Court, said that it is in the woman’s “best interests” to allow her to “continue with the pregnancy.”
Hedley said that even if people with mental disabilities cannot take part in court proceedings on their own behalf, they “may very well retain the capacity to make deeply personal decisions about how they conduct their lives.” These could include decisions about their own medical care, including “termination of pregnancy.”
“My instincts are that (her limited mental function) has nothing to do with the issue of whether a pregnancy should continue simply because once the child is born, if the mother doesn’t have the ability to care for a child, society has perfectly adequate processes to deal with that.
“I’m anxious about there being brought into capacity assessments… the ability to care for a child in the future,” the Independent newspaper quoted the judge saying.
Protect the Pope comment: It appears from the report of the case in the press that the NHS doctors were seeking to forcibly abort this mother’s baby because they judged that she did not have the mental capacity to care for the baby. This contradicts the pre-trial argument that the NHS released to the media which claimed they were seeking a coerced abortion because of potential threats to the mother’s health. Why would they hide their real motive for seeking permission to abort this mother’s baby against her wishes?
Thank God Mr. Justice Hedley had the compassion, conscience and commonsense to see through their ruse and realise that this case was about the right of the unborn child to be born, not about the mental capacity of the mother. His ruling that the State could care for the baby if the mother is unable has profound implications for the debate about abortion, because it re-introduces the possibility of the State offering adoption as an alternative to abortion:
‘My instincts are that (her limited mental function) has nothing to do with the issue of whether a pregnancy should continue simply because once the child is born, if the mother doesn’t have the ability to care for a child, society has perfectly adequate processes to deal with that.’
He was also concerned not to establish the legal precedent that the ability to care for a child would become a factor in the legal assessment of capacity, which would open the flood-gates for other NHS doctors seeking to force mothers to undergo abortions against their wills. Mr Justice Hedley deserves our thanks and prayers.