Bipolar woman wins High Court battle for right to have abortion

The 37-year-old said she no longer trusted her husband and didn’t want to be a single mother

A pregnant woman with severe mental health problems is expected to have an abortion after a High Court judge ruled that she was capable of making the decision.

The 37-year-old, who is almost 23 weeks pregnant and has bipolar disorder, said she would kill herself and her unborn daughter if he did not allow her to go ahead with a termination.

Her family and doctors said she was not in a fit mental state to decide to end the pregnancy, pointing out that before she was ill she wanted the child.

But Mr Justice Holman ruled in the Court of Protection that she "does have capacity to make a decision to request the consent to end her current pregnancy".

The woman, known only as "SB", is currently staying in a secure mental health facility, but appeared in court to make a direct plea to the judge. Her identity and the name of the health authority cannot be reported.

Justice Holman disagreed with the assessment of her doctors, mother and husband that SB was not capable of deciding and said it would be "a total affront" to her autonomy to say she could not.

He added: "The patient perfectly understands what's involved in a termination... she perfectly understands the finality of the event."

As he closed the proceedings, the judge reminded the woman that she would still make the final decision about the abortion. "Don't forget you can change your mind," he said, "You can make these decisions."

Her evidence in court, in front of journalists, was a rare occurrence for the Court of Protection, where patients do not ordinarily get a chance to speak on their own behalf. She appeared lucid and calm, only occasionally interrupting proceedings to disagree with witnesses.

When asked what she would do if the doctors forced her to carry the baby to term, she said: "I would seek to kill myself and the baby."

She believes she no longer has the support of her husband and that she is not well enough to bring up a child. The urgency in the case was due to the fact that SB is rapidly approaching the 24-week deadline for carrying out an abortion.

The woman, who was in work before having a mental-health relapse late last year, said she could not cope with bringing up a child. She told the judge: "With the situation I'm in, the idea of me having a baby is just crazy."

She has been sectioned several times over the last six years and treated for bipolar disorder and drug-induced schizophrenia. She has continued to use cannabis heavily while pregnant, including at the secure mental health facility where she is currently being held.

SB, who was visibly pregnant, pleaded with the judge: "I don't want to be a single mum, I don't want to share a baby with [my husband] and I think I'd be better off getting rid of the baby."

SB no longer trusts her mother or husband. She said she had initially been "more into" the idea of having a child than her husband but that she no longer wanted it because she could not cope and did not think she had his support.

Her family and doctors point out that the timing of this change of heart coincides with her stopping her prescribed medication, which she did to protect the unborn child.

But SB said that she "didn't really want to marry" her husband in the first place and that it "never really was a love relationship". She had married him, she said, partly because "he was undocumented and had no right to be in the country".

SB claims he threatened her with a knife, though her husband and other expert witnesses say it was the other way around. It was this incident which led to her being sectioned. Her doctors say she has assaulted her mother once and her husband several times.

SB also said she thought her husband was going to take the baby girl abroad, that he believes in female genital mutilation and that if their daughter was not a virgin before she married, she should be killed.

Her mother said that when she was ill, SB often became convinced that those close to her were persecuting her.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own