BOSTON—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.
January 17, 2012http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/01/17/abortion_order_for_mentally_ill_mass_woman_vetoed/
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.
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.
Harms, who recently retired, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.Agency defends seeking abortion orderhttp://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20220118agency_defends_seeking_abortion_order/
Thursday, January 19, 2012
The head of the state Department of Mental Health is defending her agency’s efforts to arrange a court-ordered abortion for a 32-year-old schizophrenic woman, saying the request was made in the patient’s best interest and at the behest of her parents and doctors.
“The Department conveyed the request of health-care providers and the parents’ wishes in order to ensure the safety of a patient with severe mental illness,” DMH Commissioner Barbara Leadholm said in a statement to the Herald.
Her response came a day after the state appellate court overturned a ruling by just-retired Norfolk Probate and Family Court Judge Christina L. Harms that not only gave the woman’s parents permission to consent to an abortion but ordered that she be sterilized as well. The appellate court threw out the sterilization and handed the abortion decision to another judge.
Gov. Deval Patrick has declined to comment on DMH’s role in the case, or whether he feels it is ever appropriate for a state agency to advocate for a court-ordered abortion.
The DMH has no plans to fight the case, which was brought to the appeals court by the woman’s attorney, department spokeswoman Jennifer Kritz said. The woman’s attorney — her client is identified in court papers only as Mary Moe, to protect her identity — has not responded to multiple requests for comment. Her parents did not answer the door at their home. Neither did Harms, who rendered the decision Jan. 6 and retired Jan. 11 after more than 20 years on the bench.
Advocates for the mentally ill called Harms’ decision “mind-boggling” and praised the appeals court’s scolding of the judge for ordering the sterilization without having been asked to do so.
“The sterilization is just mind-boggling. Forced sterilization should never be permitted,” said Ron Honberg, the legislative chief for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, who said the case appears to be unprecedented. “The decision comes across as very punitive. Punishing someone for the crime of having a mental illness.”