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Press release: Forced abortion judgement released – 22 week old unborn baby considered “not a physical presence”

5 July 2019 – The full judgement outlining Justice Lieven’s decision to order a 24 year old woman with a “moderate learning disability” who was 22 weeks pregnant to have an abortion has been released. The hearing took place in the Court of Protection on 21st June, however the ruling was later challenged in the Court of Appeal on the 24th June and was successfully overturned.

Justice Lieven’s judgement from the Court of Protection has now been released. The ruling discusses the woman’s ‘best interests’, her capacity to consent to abortion, as well as the role the grandmother, a former midwife, might play in raising the child. In all 63 paragraphs of the ruling however, no consideration or weight is given to the rights of the 22-week-old unborn baby. 

The court judgement noted: 

  • Paragraph 18 –  The pregnant woman (referred to as AB for reasons of anonymity) understood that she “has a baby inside her, and that it will be born”. She could see her stomach grow and could feel the baby move. 
  • Paragraph 22 – NHS Trust witnesses thought that the late-term abortion would be “less traumatic for her than the baby being taken away” however the AB’s mother, who the Justice Lieven noted “knows her best”, thought that AB would potentially be “very upset about the loss of the baby”.
  • Paragraph 35 – Previous case law is cited concerning an abortion for a 14 year old girl. The judge in that case writes that such an “immensely invasive procedure” as a forced abortion, could not be justified to be ordered by the court “unless there was powerful evidence that allowing the pregnancy to continue would put the mother’s life or long-term health at very grave risk.” The ruling states that AB is “young and physically healthy” (p.48) and any risk to postpartum psychosis was speculative and it would be “almost impossible to assess the likelihood of this happening” (p. 24).
  • Paragraph 43 – AB’s social worker said that she believed it was in “AB’s best interests to have the baby”. 
    Paragraph 46 – Justice Lieven notes that she is “acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order someone to have a termination, where it appears that they do not want it, is immensely intrusive”. 
    Paragraph 52 – Despite the fact that Justice Lieven accepts that AB “probably will suffer some trauma or upset from the termination” she thinks that it “will be a lesser impact than having the baby”.
    Paragraph 56 – Justice Lieven makes a differentiation between a “pregnancy” of 22 weeks gestation and a “real baby”, saying that if AB gives birth, it will be a “real baby” but while she is still pregnant it is a “pregnancy”, seemingly not a “physical presence”.
    Paragraph 60 – Justice Lieven believed that AB “would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll”.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Clare McCarthy has said:

“A few very worrying things ring through from this judgement, one especially resounding thing was that the rights of the 22-week-old baby in the case were not considered in any way, or carried no weight at all in the judgement. A baby this late in gestation would in some cases be able to survive outside of the womb and yet Justice Lieven dismisses the baby as “not a physical presence”. 

“Despite the fact that the woman, supported by her mother and her social worker, made clear that she wanted the baby (p.26), and that Justice Lieven admitted that a court-ordered abortion is “immensely intrusive”, Lieven nonetheless imposed her pro-abortion agenda on this woman by overriding her wishes and ruling that she should be forced to have an abortion. It is a major relief that this ruling has been overturned but it should never have happened in the first instance.

“This ruling was a gross invasion not only on the rights of the pregnant woman but also on the right to life of the unborn child who the mother could feel growing and moving inside her womb.