Catholic mother of vulnerable woman in abortion dispute put faith in justice system

The mother of a pregnant mentally-ill woman who doctors thought should have an abortion had to put her faith in British justice, her lawyer has said.

Laura Hobey-Hamsher said the woman wanted to keep the baby, but specialists thought a termination was the right option.

Ms Hobey-Hamsher, who works for law firm Bindmans, said in those circumstances the woman’s mother felt she had no choice but to champion her daughter’s rights and fight in court.

A judge in a specialist court issued a ruling last week that gave specialists permission to terminate the pregnancy.

But three Court of Appeal judges on Monday overturned that decision after the woman’s mother, a Catholic midwife, mounted a challenge.

“At the heart of this case is a profoundly vulnerable young woman,” said Ms Hobey-Hamsher on Tuesday.

“Throughout her life, her greatest champion has been her mother.

“Faced with a divergence between her daughter’s wishes and the opinions of her daughter’s doctors, she felt she had no choice but to put her trust in the legal system.”

Ms Hobey-Hamsher said the case had raised “some of the most difficult” questions faced by judges.

She added: “The Court of Appeal’s swift and decisive decision in this respect is welcomed, such that now, our client’s daughter, her mother, and all of those involved in her care can put the past behind them and turn their attention to where it is needed most: the pregnancy, and the safe delivery of a healthy baby.”

Mrs Justice Lieven had initially analysed the case at a hearing the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London on Thursday and Friday.

She concluded that an abortion would be in the woman’s best interests.

Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson overturned Mrs Justice Lieven’s decision after analysing evidence at a hearing in the Court of Appeal in London.

Judges heard that the woman, who is in her twenties and 22 weeks’ pregnant, had the mental age of a child aged between six and nine.

They were told that she had been diagnosed with a “moderately severe” learning disorder and a mood disorder.

Lawyers said they thought the circumstances of the case were unique.

Bosses at an NHS hospital trust responsible for the woman’s care had asked Mrs Justice Lieven to let doctors perform an abortion.

Three specialists, an obstetrician and two psychiatrists, said a termination was the best option because of the risk to the woman’s daughter’s psychiatric health if pregnancy continued.

They said the woman’s behaviour could pose a risk to a baby.

Specialists also said the child might have to go into care, and taking a baby away would cause greater psychiatric harm than terminating pregnancy.

The woman’s mother was against termination and said she could care for the child.

A social worker who works with the woman said the pregnancy should continue.

Lawyers who represented the woman also said she should be allowed to give birth.

Judges heard that the “circumstances of the conception” were “unclear” and that a police investigation was ongoing.

They say the woman, who lives in the London area, cannot be identified in reports of the case.

They also say the NHS hospital trust which asked for a decision, and the council which employs the social worker, cannot be named because publication of their names might create an information jigsaw which could lead to the woman’s daughter’s identity being revealed.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.