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Process for pregnant women with mental disabilities – Panorama

  • In the UK, a mentally disabled pregnant woman should abort her child at the request of the National Health Service (NHS).
  • The mother of the woman lodged an objection to this, but initially obtained a defeat in court.
  • In the appeal process, the verdict was overturned: the woman is now allowed to give birth to her child.

From Cathrin Kahlweit, London

Not all details are known, the characters should remain anonymous, the story is complicated, the facts confusing. Yet, the ruling of a London appeals court, which fell on Monday and overturned, in an unusual hurry, the verdict of last Friday's custody court, is so spectacular that it was perceived far beyond the UK. It is about a young woman from the Nigerian community, which, according to their doctors and their supervisors, have a very low intelligence quotient and the level of development of a child. And she is pregnant in the 22nd week.

In the UK, under certain circumstances, it is allowed to abort until the 24th week, and the National Health Service (NHS) has requested the competent childcare center to terminate the pregnancy. A gynecologist and two psychiatrists had argued that the pregnancy was a big risk for the young woman; she was mentally ill, and as pregnancy progressed she was in danger of psychosis. In addition, she could not care for a child. It was well known, the doctors had argued, that in this unusual case it was the choice between two evils, but in their eyes the welfare of the mother was crucial. In addition, it was unclear how the pregnancy came about, the police investigate.

The woman had not been able to express herself clearly

However, the mother of the young woman, a former midwife, had objected to the NHS application; she will take care of her grandchild. Ultimately, therefore, on Friday in front of the Supervision Court, which negotiates cases of people who can not represent themselves, met three parties: the lawyers of the NHS, the lawyers of the mother, supported by the Catholic Church, and the lawyer Katie Gollop, who Pregnant women had been provided by the state as a legal representative.

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She told the SZ to find out what the young woman wanted. She was unable to express herself clearly, but made the impression that she was "happy to be pregnant". According to Gollop, the court had the complex and ethically difficult task of deciding between the well-being of her client, the danger of stigmatization in the Nigerian community and the objection of the mother. For the sake of the child, Gollop hesitated, it was less in the procedure.

The Supervisor of the Supervision Court had upheld the NHS's application on the grounds that she was "aware that it is an immense intervention if the state orders abortion against the will of the expectant mother." But, she had added, she had to judge "in the interest of the mother, not with regard to what society thinks about abortions".

Apparently, the young woman wishes a baby as she wishes a doll. If she took the child away and would later take it away, she would suffer more from it than from an abortion. A Catholic bishop, who was behind the contradiction of the mother of pregnant women, argued loudly Daily Telegraphthat the judgment constitutes a gross disregard for the human rights of the young woman and the unborn child. It destroys the fragile balance between the rights of the individual and society.

Right to sexual autonomy and reproduction

The appeals court reacted quickly. Gollop reports that her colleagues and they have not found a comparable case in British legal history. Three days later, the next instance dealt with the international jurisprudence and the Human Rights Convention, which clearly allows disabled people a right to sexual autonomy and procreation.

The three judges overturned the first-instance verdict and announced their rationale for the coming days. Gollop, the pregnant woman's representative, did not want to engage in speculation about the appellants' arguments. However, she was pleased that the NHS doctors were no longer allowed to perform the abortion they requested.

The process sparked a debate in the UK about interfering with the rights of people with learning disabilities or mental retardation. Critics of the first-instance judgment complained that in the argumentation of the NHS doctors the rights of the child played only a subordinate role. Also the "1967 Abortion Act", which allowed crashes in the UK until the sixth month, came again into the criticism. The candidate for the office of Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, had recently announced that he would work for a shortening of the deadline to twelve weeks, as it applies in Germany.

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(t) Disability (t) Reproduction (t) Children (t) Human Rights (t) Pregnancy

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