Parents Want Abortion For Mentally-Ill Daughter, Judge Adds Sterilization
Some Massachusetts parents are in quite the predicament regarding their 32-year-old mentally-ill daughter. The woman, known only as Mary Moe, has been diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She takes medication for her condition that is so debilitating that she is completely out of of touch with reality. Her parents have been named her guardians and are already raising their grandson because their daughter is in no way fit to care for him.
But since Mary has gotten pregnant again, her parents have asked a court judge for an abortion — specifically because their daughter cannot consent. The medication that Mary takes is already harmful to the fetus, but quitting medication would plunge her “deeper into madness,” her parents say.
Mary was pregnant once before the birth of her son and had an abortion. But somewhere before the birth of her son, she suffered a complete psychotic breakdown and had to be hospitalized. Now pregnant again, Mary’s parents want to ensure that they’re not forever raising their daughter’s children — or taking her repeatedly to get pregnancies terminated.
A Massachusetts judge saw the parents requests as legitimate and ordered that — despite that their daughter cannot legally consent to the procedure — Mary could have both an abortion and be sterilized. He even said that Mary could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed … by ruse” into a hospital.
But an appeal was recognized and the decision was overturned, as officials argued that the woman was a Catholic and against abortion. Faith aside for a moment, the assumption that a mentally incompetent person should not have the right to bear a child is quite problematic.
The appeals court cited this 1982 Supreme Court ruling:
“The personal decision whether to bear or beget a child is a right so fundamental that it must be extended to all persons, including those who are incompetent.”
Yet, at the same time, court transcripts reveal Mary to be completely unaware that she is even pregnant – refusing obstetrical care and testing despite that she is, as of now, five months pregnant (she was two months along when parents initially went to the court). She appeared “agitated and emotional’’ when discussing her previous abortion, yet once told doctors that she had previously given birth to a girl who she had named Nancey. [tagbox tag=”abortion”]
Previously, the courts were moving forward on the hypothetical platform of what she would do if she were competent — an unbelievably shaky foundation for such a ruling as the previous judge decried that if Mary was not mentally ill, she would choose abortion “in order to benefit from medication that otherwise could not be administered due to its effect on the fetus.’’
But it’s quite impossible to determine such a fact as a fact given Mary’s illness and detachment from virtually everything.
Dr. Art Caplan noted to msnbc that upon reviewing the facts of this case, one should also consider the limitations of Mary’s parents:
It is probably impossible to prevent Moe from having sex. But given her mental state she is hardly capable of consent. I think she needs to be on permanent birth control until and unless she somehow recovers from her mental illnesses. Then, and only then, should she be free to have a child.
He adds that allowing Mary to conceive and continually get pregnant is “not in her best interest.” However, forcing her to be sterilized and ruling that she have a non-consensual abortion revokes essential human rights from the mentally-impaired mother, which is a decision that I just can’t get behind.