BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, February 2, 2012, ( – A petition that could have forced a 32-year-old mentally ill woman to abort her child against her religious objections has been withdrawn.

Norfolk Probate and Family Court Judge Gregory V. Roach authorized the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) to announce the petition was withdrawn on January 23. 

Former Norfolk Probate Judge Christina Harms had ruled on January 6 that the woman, who is described only by the pseudonym “Mary Moe, could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed…by ruse” until she was sedated for an abortion, which Moe’s parents sought against her will. Harms also ordered Moe sterilized.


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“Mary Moe” suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. According to court documents, Moe had a psychotic breakdown after a previous abortion and “believed people were staring at her and stating that she killed her baby.” In court, she described herself as “very Catholic,” and told the court she “wouldn’t do that (abortion)” again; a court-appointed expert said she would not choose another abortion if she were competent to make the decision. 

Massachusetts Appeals Court Associate Justice Andrew Grainger threw out the sterilization, saying Judge Harms had pulled that requirement out of “thin air.”

However, the DMH and the woman’s parents still asked the state to overrule their daughter’s expressed wishes on the abortion. Judge Grainger remanded the abortion question to a lower court for an evidentiary inquiry.

Harms, who was appointed by former Governor Michael Dukakis in 1989, retired last month.

“The Department conveyed the request of health-care providers and the parents’ wishes in order to ensure the safety of a patient with severe mental illness,” said DMH Commissioner Barbara Leadholm in defending their seeking of the forced abortion.

Judge Roach closed the evidentiary hearing to the public and sealed the case file.