The Massachusetts Appeals Court today overturned a lower-court judge who had ordered a woman with severe mental problems to be sterilized as part of an abortion the judge had agreed with her family to make her have over her objections.
The family of the woman, identified only as Mary Moe, had sought an abortion when they learned she was pregnant in October because otherwise she would have to come off the medications that help keep her somewhat stable - even so, she refuses to admit she is pregnant but says that as somebody who is "very Catholic," she would never agree to an abortion:
The judge reasoned instead that if Moe were competent, she "would not choose to be delusional," and therefore would opt for an abortion in order to benefit from medication that otherwise could not be administered due to its effect on the fetus. The judge ordered that Moe's parents be appointed as coguardians and that Moe could be "coaxed, bribed, or even enticed ... by ruse" into a hospital where she would be sedated and an abortion performed.
But the appeals judges said Probate and Family Court Judge Christina L. Harms went too far by adding sterilization to the abortion order after hearing this was not the woman's first pregnancy and under the desire to keep this sort of thing from happening again. The woman had ended her first pregnancy with an abortion, then gave birth to a son now cared for her by her parent.
No party requested this measure, none of the attendant procedural requirements has been met, and the judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air.
The court vacated Harms' order for an abortion, but said the parents had the right to a hearing - before another judge - on the issue of whether the woman is incompetent to make her own pregnancy decisions and that they should be given the right to make them for her - a hearing that for obvious reasons needs to be held quickly.
The record indicates that a determination should ensue with all possible speed before a different judge, and that such a determination will benefit from an immediate examination establishing the viability and status of the pregnancy.