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By Obianuju Ekeocha, First Things, 6 . 23 . 19
On Friday, the United Kingdom’s Court of Protection ordered a mentally disabled pregnant woman to abort her unborn child.
The case was brought to court by a National Health Service trust that oversees the disabled woman’s care. The trust requested the Court of Protection—which makes decisions on the property, financial affairs, and personal welfare of people who lack mental capacity to make decisions for themselves—to allow their doctors to abort the baby. The trust doctors made this request even though the woman is 22 weeks pregnant. Moreover, during the hearing, it became clear that neither the pregnant woman nor her mother wants the baby aborted. Her mother, a retired midwife, said that abortion is against her religious and cultural beliefs. She is a Catholic member of the Nigerian Igbo community.
We should be outraged that a government-affiliated health establishment is fighting to kill a fully developed baby against the wishes of the mother and grandmother, and also that Justice Nathalie Lieven—who has admitted that all evidence indicates the disabled woman wants to keep her baby—has ruled that the child should be aborted. This case exposes how far the tyranny of the abortion regime extends. In a society that has decided the unborn have no rights, the worth and life of the unborn are determined by the most powerful.
As a Catholic Nigerian woman living in the United Kingdom, my heart is broken as I read the details and reports of this case. I understand why this Nigerian grandmother would be against the killing of her grandchild. Catholic Nigerians are pro-life both because of our faith and because of our cultural heritage. Our people still hold firmly to the belief that human life is precious even in the mother’s womb. We believe that God owns life and that God gives life. These are deeply held beliefs that no judge or court should attempt to strip from our hearts and minds.
This case reveals what happens when an activist lawyer becomes a powerful judge. Nathalie Lieven was appointed a High Court judge in December 2018, and her appointment took effect on January 11, 2019. Most reports have failed to highlight that in the last fifteen years Lieven has had a prominent place in the British pro-abortion movement. She has been in the forefront of some of the landmark abortion-related cases in the country.
In 2005 Lieven represented the Family Planning Association (FPA), the U.K. member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, in a case where she argued fervently against the need for parents to consent to giving abortion or contraception advice to children under sixteen. Lieven argued that parents are no longer the best people to advise children on contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and abortions, and that they have no right to know if their children under age sixteen are seeking treatment.
In 2011 she fought for the cause of at-home abortions, representing the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)—the largest British abortion provider. In the case BPAS v Secretary of Health Lieven argued that women should be allowed to self-administer the second dose of abortion drugs at home. From 2015 to 2018, Lieven represented the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission as it launched legal action against Northern Ireland’s government, arguing that their pro-life law violated the human rights of women and girls. As lead counsel for NIHRC, Lieven argued that the laws protecting the unborn breached entitlements to privacy and rights to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights.
These important abortion-related cases have laid the foundations for the expansion of legal abortion in the U.K., and Lieven has been deeply involved in the construction of these foundations. As a lawyer, she has been the voice of abortion organizations, she has argued to increase abortion access in the U.K., she has fought against the rights of parents with regards to their children, she has claimed that the fetus does not have an autonomous right to life under U.K. law, and she has spoken on panels dedicated to abortion rights-related litigations.
In short, throughout her career she has championed the cause of abortion in the U.K. Now, barely six months after being elevated to the judge’s bench, she has handed down an outrageous ruling that will lead to terminating a fully formed unborn baby—against the wishes of the mother and grandmother. I weep for the broken heart of my fellow Nigerian Catholic woman whose unborn grandbaby has been sentenced to death under the guise of protection and care.
Obianuju Ekeocha is founder and president of Culture of Life Africa.