BOSTON (The Blaze/AP) -- A Massachusetts court on Tuesday overturned a ruling by a judge who ordered a mentally ill woman to undergo an abortion against her wishes and be sterilized.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court said the woman, who has schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, had described herself as "very Catholic" and made it clear she did not want an abortion.
According to the opinion, “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."
The ruling reverses a decision by Family and Probate Court Judge Christina Harms, who found that the 32-year-old woman was not competent to decide whether to get an abortion.
Harms found the woman would choose to end her pregnancy if she were competent and agreed to appoint her parents as guardians "for the purpose of consenting to the extraordinary procedures of abortion and sterilization," the Appeals Court said.
The Appeals Court ruling does not identify the woman, who is believed to be about five months pregnant.
The judge reasoned that if Moe were competent, she would opt for an abortion to benefit from medication that otherwise could not be given to her because of its effects on the fetus.
The Appeals Court said the judge also directed the clinic to sterilize the woman at the same time "to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future."
The Appeals Court reversed the order, saying no one had requested it and the judge "appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air." The judges sent the case back to the lower court.
The Boston Globe summarizes the importance of the case:
The case provides a rare window into the wrenching ethical issues involved in treating pregnant women with chronic mental illness and the delicate balance between respecting their autonomy and protecting their best interests and those of an unborn child.
“Simply having a diagnosis of schizophrenia or any other mental illness is not a basis for sterilization in and of itself. It’s just sheer prejudice,” said Elyn Saks, who is a University of Southern California law professor. Saks, who has also been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is also an advocate for the mentally ill, according to the Boston Herald.
Harms, who recently retired, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.