Judge Orders Woman to Have Abortion Because She Had One Before


pregnancy testIf you've got a uterus and you haven't been paying attention to the unfolding court case of Mary Moe (a pseudonym), a Massachusetts woman who suffers from schizophrenia, it's time to listen up. At the request of mental health workers, a probate judge had ordered Moe to undergo an abortion followed by sterilization.

The good news is the order was overturned yesterday by a state supreme court. The bad news -- for women everywhere -- is the judge apparently used the fact that Moe had once had an abortion as grounds to call for another one even as she said her Catholic faith prevented her from terminating a baby. And Moe continues to be plagued by that choice made years ago as her case unfolds.

Did we just enter some alternate universe where one decision in time is legally binding for the rest of your life?

The very word "freedom" of choice implies that a woman is not limited by past decisions as she goes forward in her reproductive years. So a woman who has one abortion can decide to get pregnant later and keep the child. And on the flip side, a woman who has given birth can decide to terminate a later pregnancy. 

Abortion is very often a choice made based on the situation -- be it the circumstances surrounding conception, medical issues, financial constraints, what have you. That's precisely what makes the Moe case so troubling. According to the Boston Globe:

She became "agitated and emotional" when discussing a previous abortion ... As a result, Harms ruled that the woman was not competent to make a decision about an abortion, citing "substantial delusional beliefs," and concluded she would choose to abort her pregnancy if she were competent.

So one abortion in the past means she'd always want one? Setting aside the woman's mental illness and the difficulties it presents, this is still a leap of dizzying proportions.

In a legal sense, yes, judges often rely on past events -- better known as precedents -- in making rulings. What worked once in a courtroom is often brought up in yet another legal proceeding. And yet, this is an overly simplistic view of life. There's a lack of room for legal interpretation of the gray areas of reproductive choice. The judge's reasoning makes no sense.

Very simply: a woman can change her mind, for hundreds of different reasons. We need to be legally protected to do so! But it looks like Moe's case is headed back to court because her parents -- who have custody of her son because of her mental health issues -- want both the procedures done.

I'm wary of what legal precedents are set here, how about you?


Image via farenheight45one/Flickr



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the4m... the4mutts

I am so angry by that probate judges decision, that I have no words.... I would like to hit him in the face with a frying pan.

nonmember avatar Ash

I have had a miscarriage and an abortion. Someday, I would live to have a chance at motherhood again. I regret my decision and I don't feel that anyone has the right to tell me what to do with my body just because I've had it done before. That's disgusting and doesn't make it any easier on the woman.

Obviously, there is more to this situation then my own, however that doesn't give anyone the right to violate her body without her consent. This makes me sick.

PonyC... PonyChaser

For once, Jeanne, you and I are on the same side of a "political" issue - although I hate to reduce this woman's situation to merely politics.

There are so many things wrong with this, I cannot even begin to enumerate. But the first thing that comes to mind is, if she is "incompetent" (unable to care for herself), and her parents wish for her to be sterilized, why wouldn't they have taken that step after the first child? And there are ways of preventing her from becoming pregnant besides sterilization.

Just, wow.

mande... manderspanders

I don't like government intrusion into our lives, so yes, the judge's ruling distrubs me.

But I also don't believe that Mary Moe would be mentally stable enough to make any decisions regarding her health or the health of the her unborn baby if this needed to be taken to court to begin with.  I don't believe that means she isn't capable of wanting or loving her baby, or that she doesn't regret the previous abortion - just that she probably can't provide the care necessary.

What if she had delusions/voices during the pregnancy and she believed the fetus was talking to her or that she thought she needed to kill it because it wasn't really a baby??  Schizophrenia needs to be taken seriously and she will have to be closely monitored for sure.

nonmember avatar Guest

I'm with you on this one....this scares me!

starr... starrsitter

Forced abortion is just as heinous as forced birth and the idea of forced sterilization for people some deem unworthy of procreating should terrify you.

jagam... jagamama0710

Yep, what starrsitter said.

Melis... Melissa042807

Three words: Can. Of. Worms. There's no telling where this will go. 

Antiq... Antiquehorses

Starrsitter is right on the money

nonmember avatar AW

This article is totally misleading - the past abortion is not why the judge concluded that she would and should have another. Since the woman was found to be incompetent to decide whether she should have an abortion, the court was required to decide what her decision about aborting her pregnancy would have been, had she been competent. The court based its decision that she would have chosen to have an abortion on the fact that, because she was pregnant, she could not take the medications that she required to treat her schizophrenia - meds which kept her from becoming delusional. The court reasoned that, if competent, she would have chosen not to be delusional, would have chosen to be able to take her meds and to do so, she would have needed not to be pregnant. Hence, the finding that she would choose to abort.
The reason that this was not upheld on appeal was that the appeals court felt that there was insufficient evidence presented to conclude, one way or the other, whether she would have chosen an abortion if competent.
Cases like these involving severely mentally ill people are very difficult and often involve no-win situations. The judges, court-appointed advocates and attorneys all must work to balance many conflicting interests and to make very hard decisions for people who cannot make decisions for themselves. Boiling the situation down to a few inflammatory statements such as these is irresponsible and just makes that job all the more difficult.

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