A woman with severe learning disabilities should make her own choice about whether to continue with her pregnancy because she has the capacity to decide, a High Court judge has ruled.
The ruling means the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will not have to undergo an abortion. The case had come to court after concerns had been expressed that she did not have the capacity to make the decision, and it might be appropriate for the court of protection to intervene and decide on her behalf. But Judge Mr Justice Hedley said people who lacked capacity in some aspects of their lives could still make "deeply personal decisions".
The woman is 18 weeks pregnant. She has sickle cell anaemia and a series of strokes have left her with learning disabilities and in the bottom 1% of the population in terms of intellectual function. She lives with her family.
Mr Justice Hedley said: “It is right to observe that both expert and professional and family evidence in the case is it would be in her best interests to continue with the pregnancy, but that is outwith the jurisdiction of this court.”
He said that while those who were unable to function independently in the community in many aspects of their lives "may very well retain the capacity to make deeply personal decisions about how they conduct their lives".
Beverley Dawkins, policy manager at learning disability charity Mencap, welcomed the decision. “Mencap… entirely agrees with the comments made by Mr Justice Hedley. Far too often, health professionals make discriminatory assumptions about whether a person with a learning disability is capable of raising a child.
“Just like anyone else, people with a learning disability are able to be good, loving parents, and just like any other parent, some need more support than others.”