On Friday, a British judge ordered doctors to perform, against her will, an abortion on a Catholic woman who suffers from severe developmental disabilities. The woman’s own mother has strenuously opposed the ruling, and insisted that she will raise the child herself, but to no avail, and the case has received much attention in Catholic circles. To Harold Braswell, a Jew and himself the child of a mentally disabled woman, all people of good conscience should be horrified by the callousness and cruelty of the judge’s decision:
Attending medical doctors have judged that her giving birth and eventually having the child removed from her custody would be extremely traumatic because of her intellectual disabilities. Based on this assessment, the judge has ruled that it is in the woman’s “best interests” that the pregnancy be terminated.
My own birth was difficult, perhaps even traumatic, for my mother. . . . Ultimately, I was removed from my mother’s custody, but instead of being given up for adoption, I was taken in by her mother, my maternal grandmother. But though my mother did not raise me herself, she remained, always, my mom. She visited me monthly, sending, almost every week, postcards and gifts. These visits, postcards, and gifts were, at times, confusing for me, even unwelcome. But not always, and, over time, I came to appreciate them and also her. We developed a strong relationship, and, on becoming an adult, it was I who began visiting her, and sending her my own postcards and gifts.
[The British court’s] ruling should be recognized as evil by anyone. It is baldly “anti-choice,” and fails even the thinnest liberal commitments of opposing bigotry and protecting minorities. It shows an utter lack of creativity, a disturbing closure to the dynamism of life, an unwillingness to accommodate [human] difference even minimally.
As a secular Jew at a Catholic university, . . . I [have come to] appreciate many Catholics and, in a way, Catholicism itself. In a society that, too often, undervalues disabled people—making their very status as “persons” a topic for debate—Catholics have consistently advocated for the intrinsic worth of their lives. I may not agree with the theological presuppositions based on which they do so. But I am grateful nonetheless. It is my hope, however, that this does not remain “just” a Catholic issue, that there is a broad public outcry both in England and internationally, and that the decision is reversed.