A British woman with a cognitive disability will not be required to undergo an abortion that is against her religious beliefs as per judges orders.
On Friday, a British court ruled that, based on trial evidence, it would be in the best interests of the woman, who to have her pregnancy terminated. The woman in question is in her twenties and around 22 weeks pregnant. Her mental age is somewhere between the ages of six and nine.
On Monday, that decision was overturned by the English Court of Appeal.
Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King, and Lord Justice Peter Jackson who oversaw the case in the appellate court were responsible for overruling Justice Nathalie Lieven's ruling in the Court of Protection.
Stating that the circumstances of the case were "unique," the judges informed the Press Association that they would provide their full reasoning for overturning the lower court's decision at a later date.
Justice Lieven had been asked by the National Health Service (NHS), who was in charge of care for the woman, to allow doctors to perform an abortion as the mother's reduced mental capacity would prohibit her from being a proper caretaker and guardian of the child.
The hearing initially took place in the Court of Protection in London, where cases pertaining to people who are considered to be lacking the mental abilities to make their own decisions are often heard.
The mother of the pregnant woman, neither of whose names have been released, was against the abortion being performed on her daughter due to her Catholic faith. As a former midwife and the child's grandmother, she said she would assume care for the child.
Individuals representing both sides of the argument provided opinions on the case. Specialists with the NHS said that the best option available for the situation would be to terminate the pregnancy. A social worker for the woman and the lawyers representing her believed that the pregnancy should be allowed to continue, reported Premier.
Details on the conception of the child were "unclear" according to the judge, with a police investigation into the case still ongoing.
After balancing the evidence, Justice Lieven ruled in favour of termination for the woman, against her religious preferences, stating that the case's evidence was "heartbreaking." She also considered the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act and the 2005 Mental Capacity Act.
The judge ruled that the woman did not, in fact, have the mental capacity to make the decision of whether or not to keep her baby, though evidence noted that she did.
As a result of her reduced mental capacity, Justice Lieven stated that the woman had no sense of what it meant to have a child, saying "I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll."
"I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society's views of termination."
Due to difficulties as a result of the woman's behavioural and psychological limitations, the judge said she doubted that social workers would be able to handle the situation. She also cited difficulties with alternative circumstances for the child's care, such as the potential need to remove the mother from the home should the child's grandmother care for her, the difficulties in doing that alone, and the potential for the baby to be placed in foster care or put up for adoption.
Despite the judge ruling in favour of an abortion, she stated that she understood the weight of a court-ordered abortion being ordered.
"I am 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," she stated.
Ultimately, Justice Lieven said she believed that it would be more traumatic for the woman to have her child removed from her than to have the pregnancy terminated.
"It would at that stage be a real baby," the judge said. "Pregnancy, although real to her, doesn't have a baby outside her body she can touch."
The judges who overturned the ruling are expected to give their reasons at a later date.