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The issue of forced contraception raises difficult questions about autonomous decision making under the Mental Capacity Act

Wayne Martin

20 August 2010 13.30 BST

Can the state force a mentally disabled woman to use contraception? How should a judge decide whether a woman in an abusive relationship has the capacity to make decisions about her own body? What is the role played by other people when we make a decision for ourselves?

Recent weeks have seen the first spate of judicial rulings under the landmark Mental Capacity Act. The act was adopted by parliament in 2005, and came into effect in 2007, but it is only now that the first cases are testing key provisions of the new legal world it establishes.

The disturbing case of Mrs A explores troubling questions about procreation and power in the context of mental disability and domestic violence. It raises deep and difficult questions about just what it means for individuals to make decisions for themselves.

Mrs A suffers from a significant learning disability; court papers document that her IQ is in the bottom one percentile of adults of her age.

Prior to meeting her husband, she had twice become pregnant. Although she insisted that she would be a good mother, a pre-birth assessment in each instance concluded that she lacked the insight to meet her baby’s needs without intensive support. Under court order, her two infants were removed at birth. After the second pregnancy, Mrs A herself came under a guardianship order and began using contraception, administered by a monthly injection.

Read in Full:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/20/mental-health



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