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Mentally disabled woman escapes forced abortion

RightMarch January 13, 2013

The UK Telegraph reports:

A young woman with learning difficulties has won the right to decide the fate of her unborn baby after doctors lost their application to carry out an abortion without her consent.

The woman, who is not being named for legal reasons, suffers from sickle cell disease which has already caused her to have a string of strokes.

Her medical team were concerned that allowing her pregnancy to continue could endanger her life.

Mr Justice Hedley, sitting in the Court of Protection at London’s High Court, found that the court had no jurisdiction to decide on the matter after an independent expert in psychiatry said the woman had the capacity to decide.

The judge said it was important to bear in mind that people with severe learning difficulties who might not be unable to function independently in the community “may very well retain the capacity to make deeply personal decisions about how they conduct their lives”.

These could include decisions about choice of partners, the extent of sexual activity, making permanent relationships “and decisions about their own medical care including, as in this case, the continuation or termination of pregnancy”.

The court heard how the woman’s illness and a series of strokes placed her in the bottom 1 per cent of the population in terms of intellectual functioning.

She lives with her mother and her sister and other members of her family, who provide a supportive network in which she functions well.

Towards the end of last year she discovered she was pregnant, and the matter was brought to the attention of the court.The alleged father was said to be known. The judge said it would not be right for the court to make observations about that.

The woman was always co-operative with her treatment, and there was no reason to believe she would not co-operate over matters relating to her pregnancy. “However, entirely respectable anxiety was raised about her capacity to deal with these matters, in particular her capacity to decide whether or not she wished to continue with the pregnancy,” he said.


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