Forced abortion: is it really in anyone’s “best interests”?

Collette Power

Last week the Court of Appeal unanimously overturned a ruling forcing an abortion on a 24-year-old, mentally disabled woman (hereafter, AB), by Justice Lieven in the Court of Protection. The original judgment was released this week and it is worth examining to understand how we almost arrived at that horrific point where the state can force one of its own citizens to have an abortion. There is a lot to say but I would like to consider just two points of interest: the woman’s disability and the application of the “best interest” test. 

Firstly, in considering the “best interests” of AB, Justice Lieven comments that she has “to focus on AB as an individual and her best interests, not societal views in termination [nor] the rights of disabled people in general.” Yet disability cannot simply be disregarded in favour of focusing on an AB as ‘an individual’; her disability is a fundamental part of who she is and ironically the crux of the judgment rests on this.  There are specific human rights obligations which arise here.

In 2018, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) released a joint statement mapping out a human rights based approach to the sexual and reproductive health needs of women with disabilities. Particular emphasis is rightly given to the obligation of a state to ensure that women with disabilities are protected against forced abortion.  States should also ensure that women have access to evidence-based and unbiased information.

While the Justice believes AB cannot fully understand the decision at hand here, questions should be asked about the nature of information given to her. The Barrister leading the NHS legal team in this case, told the Court of Appeal that AB “…was told she would go to sleep. She would have an operation and when she woke up the baby would no longer be in her tummy. But she would get a new doll.” This is both patronising and deliberately misleading information. The Justice herself said that “as the pregnancy has developed AB has more understanding that she is pregnant, and that means she has a baby inside her, and that it will be born.”

CEDAW and CRPD are clear that women should not be forced to undergo an abortion against their will, or without their informed consent, though I appreciate that even with unbiased and evidence based information, by virtue of her disability,  AB still might not be able to give informed consent.

All parties were unanimous in their agreement that AB did not have capacity and therefore the judgment focused on the application of the ‘best interests test’ to determine the best course of action.  The purpose of this test, as summarised in Aintree University Hospital v [James], is to focus on the individual and not just medical conduct.  A ‘best interest test’ must contain “a strong element of substituted judgment” taking into account: past and present wishes/feelings of the person, other factors he would consider, beliefs and values likely to influence their decision if they had capacity, and full consultation with carers and other interested parties. Justice Lieven feels weight cannot be given to AB’s feelings/wishes as she considers them unclear and subject to change. 

However, she is clear in her judgment that AB “is happy that she is pregnant and likes the idea of having a baby. I think that it shows if she was making the choice, at this moment she would not want a termination.”  

Whilst it is felt she cannot make ‘the choice’, the most surprising element of this judgment for me is that no weight is given to the opinions of carers and interested parties.  Alongside AB, her mother (a midwife by profession), her social worker and the official solicitor strongly felt the continuation of her pregnancy was in her best interests. Although the local authority adopted a neutral stance, they still laid out their plans for care of the child should AB continue with her pregnancy.

If the purpose of the best interests’ test is to focus on the individual and not solely medical conduct, why was only medical opinion given weight in this case? And why was there so little apparent focus on “the individual”? The Supreme Court is clear that “decision-makers must look at…welfare in the widest sense, not just medical but social and psychological…and they must consult with others who are looking after [them]…in particular for their view of what [their] attitude would be.”

If Justice Lieven feels harm is inevitable whichever path is taken here, surely the opinion of those who have worked closely and extensively with AB over a number of years are therefore best positioned to advocate for her and make this judgment.  Consideration, yet no weight, was given to their views and in my opinion, this was a dangerously narrow and partial application of the ‘best interests’ test.

It is difficult to fully analyse just what has gone on here, the details are still incomplete and the full picture will not be clear until the Court of Appeal judgment is released. However, it is a judgment riddled with contradictions and with little regard for the rights of disabled people. The Justice herself recognises how immensely intrusive a forced abortion would be and the draconian nature of a state ordered termination on a non-compliant woman, yet proceeds in this manner anyway, preferring to rely on tentative psychological speculation as opposed to the voices of those who, professionally and personally, are best placed to make this decision.

Thankfully overturned, this judgment feeds into wider debates about the role and reach of the State in such medical decisions and questions have to be asked as to what weight, if any, Courts are giving to those closest to the person in question. We must continue to be vigilant as this area of law develops, as forced abortion might just be the tip of the iceberg.

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

Forced Abortion, Eugenics and the ‘Right to Choose’

Ann Farmer

As someone with a genetic disability – and two mentally disabled brothers – but also as a student of eugenics, I am keenly interested in the case of the young mentally disabled woman ordered by the Court of Protection to undergo an unwanted abortion. Her mother, a former midwife, offered to look after her grandchild, but the Judge ruled that abortion was in her ‘best interests’ – that it would be less harmful than having the baby removed after birth.

As always in such cases, all parties are anonymous, but it has emerged that as a lawyer Mrs Justice Lieven represented the abortion lobby in several court cases, including challenging the parental right to be notified of an under-age daughter’s abortion.

Even more worrying, this secretive Court – supposedly established to protect the mentally impaired – has ruled that artificially-delivered food and fluids may be withdrawn from the brain-injured without coming to court if both family and care provider agree, signalling that it is in the ‘best interests’ of people with mental disabilities to be dead.

Sadly, seemingly the most vocal champions of human rights – left-liberal progressives – also champion abortion and euthanasia, apparently based on the subjective ‘I wouldn’t want to live like that’ approach; at the same time they oppose the death penalty – for compassionate reasons, naturally. 

The old worldview on which our laws are based, which prized free will and under which those who cannot help themselves are treated more compassionately, is being overthrown by a new, ‘human-centred’ worldview; but the new laws are made by the strong for the strong, and in practice further disadvantage the disadvantaged, reintroducing the ‘survival of the fittest’ in the guise of autonomy.

The framers of the new laws would sweep away the protections offered by the old laws to the vulnerable because they feel that if they were ‘like that’ they would want the ‘easy out’ of death, either for themselves or for any offspring conceived at the wrong time or with the wrong characteristics. In the name of choice, they have introduced a new kind of Darwinism – DIY eugenics – and although the mentally impaired cannot give authentic consent to life-or-death decisions like abortion and euthanasia, the Court is unlikely to have become involved if she had ‘chosen’ abortion. 

Indeed, she herself would have been targeted for abortion had her condition been detectable in the womb. It seems her own baby has no such impairment, but judging by the muted response from liberal commentators, anything that shows abortion in a negative light – especially when it flatly contradicts ‘the right to choose’ – must be ignored, lest it also contradict the new feminist orthodoxy that abortion is always a ‘good thing for women’. 

The early eugenicists thought it was a good thing for the race, and openly campaigned for abortion for ‘unfit mothers’; all early abortion laws were based on eugenics sterilisation laws, and the concept survived the Holocaust, lasting into the 1960s; indeed, it was only when David Steel’s bill dropped the term in favour of allowing abortion for ‘mothers who could not cope’ that their campaign finally succeeded

Abortion is now the officially preferred solution to poverty and immigration – significantly, the young woman’s mother has Nigerian origins – and also for disability. With the introduction of the more accurate non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), people with Down’s syndrome may become an endangered species; but unlike wild animals there will be no David Attenborough to save them.

Would we create a perfect society if we succeeded in eliminating disability? It could only be done by eliminating all disabled persons, as with the Nazis, who despised weakness and tried to create a superior race by eradicating ‘inferior’ types with birth control, sterilisation, abortion, euthanasia and of course the concentration camp. 

Influenced by the horrors of Nazism, the Left promotes personal autonomy in reproductive matters along with the ‘right to die’; but with death so much cheaper than life, especially in a welfare state, inevitably the last resort swiftly becomes the first for the poor and weak, who become not just nuisances but expensive nuisances. And poor women, for whom more money would mean real choice, often see abortion as their only choice; but, far from a positive choice, it is a type of self-harm that involves harming those who are even weaker – the unborn.

The Nazis succeeded in creating Hell on earth, but although the current trend for killing may be motivated by the best of intentions – the eradication of suffering – it leads to the same place, because it involves eradicating the sufferers. The road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions, but while this Court ruling failed in its objective, it may actually have succeeded in damaging the campaign to decriminalise abortion by exposing the hollow reality of the ‘right to choose’.

(Photo credit AdobeStock:kkolosov)

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

The Politics of Foetal Pain

James Evans

On the 6th of February this year, the Department of Health and Social Care admitted that an unborn baby aged 20-24 weeks gestation receives painkillers prior to surgery in the womb to treat spina bifida.

In a parliamentary question, Sir Edward Leigh MP asked the obvious follow-up question: will it be made “policy to provide pain relief to unborn babies of a similar age undergoing a termination”. The answer from the Department of Health? No.

Picking up on the contradiction, Fiona Bruce MP asked why there was this variance in clinical practice. Why did babies at 20-26 weeks undergoing spinal surgery receive painkillers, but babies at the same age undergoing termination receive no painkillers? The answer from the Department of Health? Not our job; no.

So whose job is it? Ms Bruce asked. The answer from the Department of Health? It may as well have been white noise.

In the meantime, while the Department of Health avoids it’s responsibilities, around ten mothers a day continue to proceed with a very late term abortion under the assurance that their baby will feel no pain and so does not need painkiller. Yet in the same hospitals, mothers with babies of the same age are assured that their baby will feel no pain because a painkiller will be administered.

This political avoidance has been happening since the late 1980s when the then MP, David Alton, raised the issue in parliament. It was only following the inquiry into foetal sentience that the RCOG formed a working party who published their paper in 1997. They recommended that consultants should consider the need the use of painkillers only for diagnostic or therapeutic procedures on foetuses in utero. Since then, in 2018 alone, 3602 women underwent an abortion at 20 weeks or later without the use of foetal painkiller; many of these will be following the diagnosis of a disability.

Many of these late term abortions will have been a D&E procedure in which, according to RCOG, the ‘fetus is removed in fragments’. In third trimester abortions, babies receive an injection of potassium chloride to effectively induce a heart attack – it can take minutes to several hours to work according to abortion provider BPAS.

Why is there this discrepancy? Why do we provide painkillers for an infant about to undergo spinal surgery in the womb but do not do the same for an infant about to lose his/her life through abortion? Perhaps it is because over time many Obstetrician and Gynaecologist consultants who conscientiously object to abortion have migrated to other medical fields, resulting in a group of polarised mindset without dissenters.

Or, most obviously, perhaps it is because to provide painkillers to a child that is about to have his or her life ended would bring home the reality of what’s going on. It would have a deeply humanising effect on the unborn child, and this is something that abortion supporters are keen to avoid. It would be to acknowledge that there is another human being here who is hurt by abortion. And to admit this might help cause the whole abortion edifice to collapse.

(Photo credit Adobe Stock:MoiraM)

50 years on and abortion numbers are worse than ever

Maria Horan

Back in 2007, the architect of the Abortion Act (1967) Lord David Steel, admitted that he never anticipated “‘anything like’ the current number of terminations”. And yet the number of abortions is still increasing. In 2018, there were a shocking 200,608 abortions, the highest figure ever for residents of England and Wales, and there’s little reason to think this trend will reverse.

The figures show an almost continuous year on year rise of abortions in England and Wales from 1967 to 2018. The vested interests of the abortion lobby make a clear headed analysis of these figures extremely difficult. The head of tax-payer funded BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) Ann Furedi has stated that she wants to see abortion become available without legal restriction up to birth, and has been pushing British politicians to support something similar to Andrew Cuomo’s horrific New York Bill, which does exactly that. Furedi claims to be concerned with “choice” and yet British taxpayers have no choice when it comes to their taxes being used to pay for abortions performed by BPAS and Marie Stopes.

Repeat abortions have risen from 74,204 in 2017 to 78,998 in 2018, which means that over 39% of abortions were carried out on women who had at least one previous abortion. This gives credence to the claim that there may be a number of women in the UK who are using abortion as contraception, almost wholly funded by the taxpayer, costing the NHS an extra £1million a week. These repeat abortions show a failure to address the underlying reasons that a woman would seek to have an abortion in the first place. Repeat abortions indicate that each termination does not solve the problems that so many abortion advocates claim it does, or these women wouldn’t keep returning. Studies in Russia have demonstrated that alcohol consumption is clearly linked to repeat abortions and in Finland, where abortion analysis is of high quality, lack of educational opportunities are cited as an influencing factor.

The high number of abortions for disabilities (3,269), which can legally be offered up until birth, is also very concerning. Marie Stopes was an avid champion of eugenics and this eugenic tendency has clearly seeped into modern abortion practices. Women are increasingly reporting being harassed into having an abortion when their child may have a disability. Scottish mother Lauren Webster was repeatedly offered an abortion throughout her pregnancy as doctors believed her unborn son had a bladder obstruction and Edward’s Syndrome. Her son was born perfectly healthy. Natalie Halson was offered an abortion ten times up to her due date as her daughter, Mirabelle, was diagnosed with spina bifida and supposedly would have no “quality of life”. Her daughter will need to have surgery to repair her spine but has every prospect of a good quality of life thereafter. It is simply unacceptable that any pregnant mother should have to endure this type of bullying from the very people who are supposed to care for her and her preborn child. That is not healthcare. Real healthcare looks to save both lives.

The fact that private abortion providers have increased their share of termination numbers to 72% is concerning. These groups are fighting hard to see almost all current legal safeguards around abortion removed. Any further increases in abortion numbers that followed these changes would directly lead to increased revenue for these providers. Any doubt that abortion providers such as Marie Stopes are not money-motivated can be dispelled by examining their 2016 CQC report, which included reports of high-pressure sales tactics- a “cattle market” atmosphere in the clinics and staff being paid bonuses for abortion referrals. In 2011, Nadine Dorries tabled an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill to bring about independent counselling for women seeking abortions but this failed, due to pressure from disgruntled abortion providers. The sales tactics used by Marie Stopes abortion clinics are well-explained in the document produced by Right to Know. British journalist, Caroline Farrow, revealed that pressure was applied to her by Marie Stopes staff when she had cancelled an abortion appointment in 2003, only to be phoned a week later to be offered another one.

Pro-lifers must be aware of and must use this data. This includes lobbying politicians and demanding that they get off the fence and commit to pro-life change. The first step is to get them to admit that the abortion rate is alarmingly high. MPs need to commit to addressing this figure and what they are going to do about it. If they want votes, they need to face these issues head-on. The time for complacency is over.

(Photo credit Adobe Stock:jovannig)