Many in the media are reacting to the case of a mentally-disabled U.K. woman who was nearly forced to have an abortion. But they aren’t the only ones: Americans challenged the case by sharing their own powerful stories against abortion based on disability.
On June 21, Catholic News Agency (CNA) broke the news that “UK court orders forced abortion for disabled woman.” Since then, other outlets, from The New York Times to USA Today, have reported on the unidentified woman in her twenties who, at 22 weeks pregnant, was to have an abortion against her and her mother’s wishes.
At the Court of Protection, Justice Nathalie Lieven ruled that it was in the “best interests” of the woman, who has developmental disabilities and a mood disorder, CNA reported. But the woman’s mother, a Nigerian and former midwife, argued that the decision went against their Catholic faith – and offered to care for the child herself. Their social worker sided with them against the abortion.
On June 24, a U.K. court of appeals overturned the ruling. But not before several Twitter users had already shared their personal stories against abortion.
Harold Braswell, a bioethicist and assistant professor at Saint Louis University, captured attention on social media after sharing his story on June 21.
“My mom was intellectually disabled,” he revealed, before cautioning readers that his Twitter “thread may get intense.”
“My mom was deaf. And because she-like most deaf people of that generation-was not taught sign language until she was 8 she also had ‘linguistic deprivation syndrome,’” he continued. “But she had significant cognitive disabilities and was, at the time she got pregnant with me, classified as a ‘disabled adult child.’ When coupled with her deafness, her issues seem as significant as those facing this woman, perhaps more so.”
And yet, he said, she still gave birth to him.
In the U.K, “The judge justifies her decision on it being in the woman's own ‘best's interests.’ This is ostensibly because, according to doctors, forced abortion would be less ‘traumatic’ than giving birth and likely losing custody of the baby,” he typed.
He challenged: “I beg to differ, and speak from experience.”
“My birth was traumatic for my mother. And I was eventually removed from her custody. So it's a very analogous situation, at least in terms of the fears ostensibly motivating the judge's decision,” he said. “[T]hough difficult, my birth was decidedly in my mother's ‘best interests.’”
That’s because “She wanted to have me.”
“The judge her[e] suggests that this woman lacks capacity to know she wants a child. She's wrong,” he continued. “My mother had wanted a child for over a decade before I was born. She knew the difference between a child and a doll. So does this woman.”
While his maternal grandmother ended up caring for him, he still saw his biological mother regularly.
“[I] acknowledged her as my ‘mom,’’” he said, and in the end, “I had two moms: her and my grandmother.”
He called it a “very enriching way to be brought up.”
“I'm a better person because of my mother; without her my life would be unrecognizable (and I love my life),” he said. “And my mother got to have the son that she had always wanted, and shaped his life just as substantively as any other mom.”
While he identified as a secular Jew, he applauded Catholics, who “often care about stuff like this, when many others are indifferent or approving.” Still, he hoped that “everyone gets incensed,” including “Pro-abortion groups.”
Others – from the U.S. and from around the world – agreed with his testimony. One Twitter user, named Alexander, thanked Braswell for his thread.
“My mom was diagnosed when I was 3 with very progressive MS, so this case hits me in a personal way as well, though very different,” he wrote. “It's beyond heartbreaking.”
Another, named Jaci, responded, “Pro-choice means choice and a judge should not override a choice like this when capacity is clear. My daughter is intellectually disabled & it would appall me to have this happen to her!”
Alfi added, “My next door neighbor and best friend was intellectually disabled. I was 5 or 6 when we first met and she was 30 something. I am so grateful I had her in my life.”
For her part, Elizabeth shared, “I’m disabled, and my OB/GYN office made moves to get custody of my baby when I was only 3 months pregnant.”
“This is even though I was married, we both were working full time, I had my B.A., etc.,” she added. “My daughter is now 15, very well-adjusted & happy (& also disabled!)”
Another user stressed, “One of my uncles had an intellectual impairment & low IQ..lost oxygen at birth. He was married for about 20 yrs. Had a son. Helped raise his son & when his wife died when boy was 12 then raised him on his own.”
Bryan, who works in social services, urged, “Working in social services field for 20 years specifically with individuals who have disabilities has taught me that by and large people presume that having a disability automatically makes a person less than.”
He concluded that “When we approach everyone with the Assumption that they are competent and valued, more often than not they rise to the occasion.”
In other words, all life – born and unborn, abled and disabled – is precious.