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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