Mass. Court Reverses Judge's Abortion, Sterilization Order

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on January 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Massachusetts appellate court has stepped in on behalf of "Mary Moe," a 32-year-old schizophrenic and bipolar woman ordered to undergo an abortion and sterilization procedure.

The woman's parents asked Family and Probate Court Judge Christina Harms to declare her incompetent so they could force her to abort the fetus. But Judge Harms went one step further and ordered the hospital to sterilize her, too.

That sterilization order was produced "out of thin air," according to Appeals Court Judge Andrew Grainger.

Mary Moe's parents did not ask for the sterilization order and neither did the court-appointed guardian, explains the appellate court. There was no hearing on the issue, nor a finding of fact. Judge Harm simply decided that sterilization would "avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future."

But the decision to reproduce is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. That right still applies to incompetent persons in the state of Massachusetts, according to the appellate court. Judges must therefore decide what the incompetent person would do if currently competent.

The court-appointed guardian believes Mary Moe would not choose to have an abortion if lucid. She's apparently a Catholic and repeatedly displayed disgust at the procedure, reports the Boston Globe.

Nonetheless, Judge Harm decided to order the abortion. She believes Mary Moe would choose to abort so she could continue taking her medication. It would have to be discontinued to protect the fetus.

The appellate court questioned Judge Harm's decision to ignore the guardian's findings. It also blasted the sterilization order for its lack of due process. It then sent Mary Moe's case back to the probate court, where it will be heard by a different judge.

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