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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Bishop Davies welcomes Court of Appeal ruling preventing forced abortion for Nigerian Catholic woman

A decision to overturn a court order to perform a forced late-term abortion on a woman with the mental age of a six-year-old child has been welcomed by the Bishop of Shrewsbury.

The Court of Protection ruled that the Nigerian Catholic woman in her 20s, who cannot be named for legal reasons, must undergo the abortion because it was in her “best interests”.

But three judges in the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and the woman, who is about 22 weeks into her pregnancy, is now able to have her baby.

Afterwards, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury said: “We can only welcome the overturning of a decision which sought to end one life and harm another.”

“It would have been a dark day for the British legal system if the courts forced a mother against her will to have an abortion,” he said.

“The disregard of the fundamental right to life of the unborn child would be compounded by the disregard of the rights of the mother and her family,” he said. “It is impossible to comprehend how a court could also fail to take into account the damage inflicted by abortion on a woman’s health and well-being.”

“It seems we were faced with the terrible logic of a ‘culture of death’ leading society not only to the total disregard of the child in the womb but also to undermine motherhood and the family,” he added.

The mother has a mental age of a child aged between six and nine years and two psychiatrists and an obstetrician complained that she should not proceed with the pregnancy.

But the woman, her social worker, and her mother – a midwife who says she will raise the child – disagreed with the doctors and the matter was referred to court.

Justice Nathalie Lieven, the judge in the Court of Protection, accepted that a forced abortion would have been an “immense intrusion”.

But she concluded that the mother would have suffered greater trauma from the removal of the baby from her care following the birth.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, spokesman on life issues for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also welcomed the ruling by the Court of Appeal.

“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,” said Bishop Sherrington.

“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 therefore 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.”


(Picture by Simon Caldwell)