Court-ordered abortion, sterilization of Catholic woman in Mass. overturned by higher court
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, January 18, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Appeals Court threw out a lower court’s ruling that would have forced a mentally ill woman to undergo an abortion and be forcibly sterilized against her will.
Norfolk Family and Probate Court Judge Christina Harms had ruled on January 6 that the 32-year-old could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed…by ruse” until she was sedated for the procedures.
The woman, who is identified only by the pseudonym “Mary Moe,” is approximately five months pregnant.
Moe, who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, had a previous abortion in her history. She reportedly described herself as “very Catholic,” and told the court she “wouldn’t do that (abortion)” again. However, despite the testimony of a court-appointed specialist who determined Moe would not choose abortion, and the fact that Moe herself reportedly became “agitated and emotional’’ when Judge Harms mentioned her previous abortion, the judge ruled that the specialist’s findings were inconclusive.
Instead, Harms ruled that Moe was not mentally competent to decide whether to have the baby, and said that if she were mentally competent, she would choose to have an abortion so she could resume taking medication to treat her illness. She added that Moe’s opposition to abortion stemmed from her “substantial delusional beliefs.” Although no one had sought sterilization, Harms also ordered Moe sterilized “to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.” The request that Moe abort originated with the state Department of Mental Health.
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Appellate Court Associate Justice Andrew R. Grainger overruled the decision, noting Harms’ orders contradicted a 1982 state Supreme Court ruling allowing all the right to procreate. He added that Harms “simply produced the [sterilization] requirement out of thin air.” Another judge in a lower court will make a final ruling.
Pro-life advocates expressed thanks at the Appeals Court’s decision and dismay at the original ruling.
Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, told LifeSiteNews.com the original ruling was “outrageous.”
“It’s barbaric to force anyone to undergo a sterilization or abortion,” constitutional expert John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute told LifeSiteNews.com. “To force someone to go against their clearly expressed religious beliefs” is a clear violation of the First Amendment, he added.
“It’s not up to the state to determine who has a child and who doesn’t,” he said. “If permitted, it’s totalitarian.”
“The nation should take note at how close we are coming to the forced abortion policy of communist China,” Troy Newman of Operation Rescue wrote in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. “Can we now dispense with the ‘pro-choice’ label?”
“The abortion cartel has never wanted choice. They exist on an insatiable diet of more and more abortion.”
Others were surprised such measures were still being performed in the name of public health. “I didn’t realize that forced sterilizations were going on anywhere,” said Howard Trachtman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts. Daniel Pollack of Yeshiva University, said, “My guess is it happens a lot more than we know.”
The case demonstrates “the lingering shadow of eugenics, which has never left the ‘progressive’ agenda, despite its ugly history,” Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International, http://hli.org told LifeSiteNews.com.
Although Harms prescribed a compulsory abortion to help stop Moe’s mental illness, abortion may have triggered her psychological issues in the first place. Court records show Moe had a “psychotic break” after her abortion and has been hospitalized numerous times for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
In 2003, researchers at the Elliott Institute found women with a history of previous abortion were nearly three-times as likely to have bipolar disorder, and a 2002 study by the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry observed that post-abortive women were being hospitalized for mental illnesses including schizophrenia.
Brian Camenker, director of MassResistance, told LifeSiteNews.com, “this shows is just how dangerous these lower courts are.” Harms, who was appointed by Governor Michael Dukakis in 1989, retired on January 11. Camenker, who has long observed judicial trends in his home state, ranked Dukakis “probably the second worst [governor] in memory” for judicial appointments.
Fr. Boquet said he is happy the appeals court rejected “the extreme nature of the initial judge’s decision.”
“This young mother certainly needs help, not more violence in her life,” he wrote. “We pray that she is able to get the help she needs.”