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Massachusetts judge orders mentally ill woman to have an abortion and be sterilized

January 18, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Forced sterilization is a practice I thought went out with the dark ages, but apparently not.

A judge in Massachusetts ordered that a pregnant woman with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have an abortion against her will and be sterilized at the same time.

According to the Associated Press story, Family and Probate Court Judge Christina Harms "found the woman would choose to end her pregnancy if she were competent and agreed to appoint her parents as guardians "for the purpose of consenting to the extraordinary procedures of abortion and sterilization. '"

The 32-year-old woman's identity was not given, but Harms apparently ordered the abortion so she can be given medication for her mental illness that she can't take if she's pregnant. She ordered the sterilization "to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future." The woman, who is about five months pregnant, describes herself as "very Catholic" and has made it very clear that she doesn't want an abortion.

Fortunately, the Massachusetts Appeals Court just reversed the decision, but it is frightening that Harms even thought this was acceptable.

I can guess what was running through Harms' mind. There isn't much doubt that this child will start life with a number of disadvantages. A woman with uncontrolled bipolar disorder and schizophrenia probably is not going to be able to raise a baby, at least not without some help. No mention was made of the man who fathered this child, but if he's unknown or incompetent in some way himself, the child may well end up the responsibility of this woman's aging parents or of the foster care system.

People are usually eager to adopt babies, but some adoptive parents might be reluctant to adopt a child who could eventually develop bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, both of which can be hereditary conditions.

Most people would say it would better if this woman does not have more children, at least until her condition is stabilized. But that isn't a decision that anyone except that woman has a right to make. The minute we take the decision out of her hands we start the trip down the slippery slope that leads to eugenics and the Nazis.

The "right to choose" is most definitely also the right to choose life, even when others disagree.

 
 

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