When a mentally ill woman showed up at a Massachusetts emergency room and doctors discovered she was pregnant, a judge recommended that she be forced to abort and then sterilized. Luckily, another judge disagreed.

According to the Boston Globe, the woman, identified only as Mary Moe, has been hospitalized several times for schizophrenia. When doctors found out she was pregnant, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health tried to get her parents named as guardians. They were already caring for the woman's son, and wanted her to have an abortion. Judge Christina Harms agreed — she ruled that Moe should terminate her pregnancy, and could be "coaxed, bribed, or even enticed'' into doing so. On top of that, Harms decided Moe should get sterilized, "to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.''


Fortunately, Appeals Court Judge Andrew Grainger reversed this decision. Moe adamantly did not want to have an abortion, and Grainger ruled that the court needed to respect that. He also pointed out that the sterilization order was bizarre and unwarranted: "No party requested this measure, none of the attendant procedural requirements has been met, and the judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air."

Abortion politics get complicated when the pregnant person is mentally ill or very young — but when we start taking away the right to choose based on our own view of mental competence, we go down a very slippery slope. A fourteen-year-old girl needs the right to carry her pregnancy to term, even if her family doesn't like it — and similarly, we can't start stripping away women's reproductive rights because they have schizophrenia. Frank Laski, executive director of Boston's Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, told the Globe that it wasn't the court's job to decide what was best for Moe — it was only supposed to rule on "what she would do if she were competent.'' This is complicated too — the judge doesn't live inside Moe's head — but trying to determine what a mentally ill person really wants is a much better strategy than determining what the judge or her family want for her. Sadly, this country has a long history of forcibly sterilizing those the government deems "feeble-minded" or otherwise defective. Part of atoning for that crime is to make sure that we stay out of the business of deciding who's worthy of having a kid.


Court strikes decision for mentally ill woman's abortion [Boston Globe]

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