Judge rebuked for ordering abortion and sterilization

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A Massachusetts judge who ordered a schizophrenic woman to have an abortion and be sterilized has received strong rebukes from another judge and from advocates for the unborn and mentally ill.

Andrew Grainger, a Massachusetts Appellate Court associate justice, struck down Harms' ruling Jan. 17 but sent the abortion portion of the decision to a lower court for a new opinion. According to the Herald, Grainger said, "No one requested this measure ... and the judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air."

On Jan. 6, Christina Harms, a Norfolk Probate and Family Court judge, granted guardianship to the parents of the 32-year old woman, referred to as "Mary Moe," and said she could be "'coaxed, bribed, or even enticed ... by ruse' into a hospital where she would be sedated and an abortion performed," according to a later appeals court opinion, the Boston Herald reported. "Additionally ... and without notice, the judge directed that any medical facility that performed the abortion also sterilize Moe at the same time to avoid this painful situation from recurring."

When asked if she would have an abortion, Moe — who is a Roman Catholic — told Harms in a December hearing she "wouldn't do that," the newspaper reported. Moe had a "psychotic break" between her first pregnancy that ended in abortion and the birth of her son who is in the custody of her parents, according the Appeals Court ruling.

When she was in college, she began believing people were staring at her and saying she killed her baby. She becomes agitated when discussing her abortion, and has refused obstetric care and testing, stated in the ruling.

It is estimated that Moe was five months pregnant at the time of the ruling.

Howard Trachtman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts told the Herald, "I didn't realize that forced sterilizations were going on anywhere. I don't see how people should be sterilized against their will for any reason."

The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health requested Harms grant temporary guardianship to Moe's parents so they might consent to an abortion for her, according to the Herald. The department defended its action after Grainger's ruling.

Harms, who was appointed to the bench in 1989, retired five days after her decision.


Mary Moe Petition for Guardianship: http://law.justia.com/cases/massachusetts/court-of-appeals/2012/12-p-18.html


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