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UK Appeals Court Overturns Order Forcing Mentally Disabled Nigerian Woman to Have an Abortion

A British court of appeals on Monday overturned a lower court’s ruling ordering that a mentally disabled woman of Nigerian descent have an abortion, The New York Times reported.

The reversal comes just days after the Court of Protection, which renders decisions on behalf of those who lack the capacity to do so for themselves, handed down the controversial order.

Court-ordered abortion

Last week, a U.K. court ruled that a pregnant disabled woman with the “mental age of a 6- to 9-year-old child” undergo an abortion. (Photo Berat Flugaj / Getty Images)

The three appeals court judges didn’t disclose their reason for refusing to move forward with the forced abortion.

Last Friday, the Court of Protection ruled that the woman, a 20-something who’s about 5 months along, didn’t grasp the challenges of rearing and caring for a child and was mentally unfit to meet them. According to doctors, the mom-to-be suffers from a “moderately severe” learning disability, a mood disorder, and has the mental age of a 6- to 9-year-old child.

Still, the court’s decision drew outrage from the British Catholic Church and other pro-life advocates.

“Every abortion is a tragedy,” said Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster. “Forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will, and that of her close family, infringes her human rights — not to mention 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,” he added.

Justice Nathalie Lieven, who made the Court of Protection ruling, defended the decision, arguing the young woman wants a baby “in the same way she would like to have a nice doll.” Despite an offer by the woman’s mother to raise the child herself, Lieven ruled that the baby might have to be put up for adoption.

“I’m acutely conscious of the fact that for the State to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion,” The Wall Street Journal reports Lieven as saying, citing verified reports of last weeks hearing. “I have to operate in [her] best interests.”

The court made a similar decision on reproduction in 2015 when it ruled that a 36-year-old woman with a low IQ and an  “extraordinary, tragic, and complex obstetric history” be sterilized for her own safety, according to the newspaper.

The circumstances surrounding the young woman’s pregnancy remain unclear. The Court of Appeals said it will give their reasons for reversing the abortion order at a later date.

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