Pro-life joy as judges save baby after court told mum-to-be she must abort
A Catholic bishop has urged the Government to explain what authority the NHS has in forcing abortions on women who do not want them.
The call comes as Catholics and pro-life groups said they are “relieved” after Court of Appeal judges ruled that doctors must not forcibly abort the baby of a woman with learning difficulties, but stressed that the original ruling, which caused “shock and outrage around the world” should never have happened.
Mrs Justice Lieven gave doctors the go-ahead to terminate the pregnancy on Friday after analysing evidence at a hearing in the Court of Protection.
Bosses at an NHS hospital trust with responsibility for the woman’s care had asked for a ruling.
However, the woman’s mother, a Catholic, on Monday successfully challenged Mrs Justice Lieven’s decision at the Court of Appeal.
Three judges overturned the ruling that the woman, in her early 20s, who is 22 weeks pregnant and is said to have ‘serious to moderate learning difficulties’, would have been forced to have an abortion; despite the fact that neither she, her mother nor her social worker wanted the abortion to take place.
“I welcome the decision to overturn the initial ruling by Mrs Justice Lieven,” the Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, John Sherrington, told The Catholic Universe. “It is both astonishing and shocking that the NHS should seek to end a healthy pregnancy against the wishes of the pregnant woman, her mother and her social worker,” he continued.
Bishop Sherrington, who takes the lead on life issues for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, said that forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will, and that of her close family, would have “infringed her human rights, and 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 and the initial ruling upset that balance. I am pleased that the recent ruling has taken the woman’s best interests into account and has upheld her rights in this case.
“This case raises fundamental questions of human rights, and there is now an urgent need for the Government to clarify what the limits are on the powers of the NHS to force abortions on women who do not want them,” he added.
Catholic crossbench life peer Lord David Alton of Liverpool said the outcome of the appeal was “wonderful” but condemned the initial ruling, saying: “When a British court orders a woman to have an abortion, it turns justice on its head, is a gross violation of human rights, and represents the tyrannical suppression of the rights of a family.
“It also makes a mockery of the so-called ‘right to choose’.”
John Deighan, SPUC’s deputy CEO, told The Catholic Universe: “This is amazing news. The initial decision…caused shock and outrage around the world.
“A forced abortion is one of the worst things that can be done to a woman, and it is beggars’ belief that a judge of this land advocated this kind of cruelty and barbarity.
“We rejoice that common sense and basic decency has prevailed, and the mother and baby have escaped this appalling fate. The attention must now turn to giving this family all the support they need in an undoubtedly difficult situation.”
He added: “Serious questions must now be asked about how this decision happened, and the country will need assurances that this will never happen again.”
Clare McCarthy, of Right To Life UK, described the decision to overturn the original ruling as “very welcome” but pointed out that the “horrific” original ruling “should never have happened”.
“Unfortunately, we fear that this is not a one-off case,” she told The Catholic Universe.
“We are calling on the Department of Health to urgently reveal how many women have been forced to have an abortion in the UK over the last 10 years and make it clear how they will ensure it will not happen again.”
Meanwhile, Liz Parsons, Life Charity’s head of advocacy, echoed sentiments that the initial judgement should never have been made.
“Had it (the initial ruling) gone ahead it would have been a most grave violation of human rights,” Ms Parsons told The Catholic Universe.
“While we await the details of the verdict, we would like to reiterate our offer of support for this woman, her mum and extended family, as well as anyone else who might benefit from our services.”