Judge questions council care plan for baby at centre of court abortion litigation

A judge has questioned a council plan for the care of a baby whose mother has learning disabilities and was at the centre of a court abortion battle.

Mr Justice MacDonald said social services staff had “no clear and settled” plan for the care of the child.

The judge suggested that aspects of a safeguarding plan were based on “hope”.

He has outlined his thoughts in a written ruling following the latest stage of litigation involving the woman.

The woman, who is in her 20s but has the mental age of a child aged between six and nine, recently gave birth after her mother won a legal fight to stop the pregnancy being terminated.

Her case hit the headlines in June after another judge ruled that she should have an abortion.

Mrs Justice Lieven analysed evidence at a hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London.

She concluded that termination was in the woman’s best interests.

That decision was overturned by Court of Appeal judges who decided that the woman should be allowed to give birth.

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 psychiatric health if pregnancy continued.

They said the woman would not be able to care for a child.

But the woman’s mother, a Catholic former midwife, had been against termination and said she could care for the child.

Mr Justice MacDonald recently analysed follow-up issues at another Court of Protection hearing.

The judge concluded that specialists should fit a contraceptive device to the woman.

He also raised concern about social services bosses’ planning for the care of the baby.

“There is as yet no clear and settled plan,” he said.

“The purported safeguarding plan has been formulated in a situation of continuing uncertainty.”

He added: “The most that could be said by (a) team manager is that the learning disability team are hoping that (the woman’s mother) will be the carer for (the woman’s) daughter and (the woman) following the birth.”

Judges have ruled that 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 involved, cannot be named because publication of their names might create an information jigsaw which could lead to the woman’s identity being revealed.

Judges have heard that the “circumstances of the conception” are “unclear” and that a police investigation is ongoing.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA Wire.

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