An article in the Huffington Post reporting that a British judge compelled a 13-year-old to undergo an abortion sparked outrage on pro-life blogs and news sites this week. Unfortunately the key claim of the story — what moved this from a tragedy to an outrage — was false.
The Huffington Post ran a story on June 9 entitled “High Court Orders 13-Year-Old Girl To Have Abortion.” This prompted sharp reactions from commentators, while LifeSiteNews.com — a conservative Christian advocacy site — ran a story entitled “UK judge orders 13-year-old to have abortion. This is medical rape.”
The lede in this advocacy piece stated:
This story is truly disturbing. According to the Huffington Post UK: “A ‘very damaged’ 13-year-old girl was ordered to have an abortion by Britain’s most senior family judge, it has been revealed.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was impregnated by a 14-year-old boy and initially wanted to keep her baby.”
That’s right. This girl, because she was considered mentally incompetent, was forced — forced — to have her child dismembered, decapitated, and disemboweled by the medical establishment because one Sir James Munby decided that capital punishment was most appropriate for being the child of a someone he described as “very … impaired.”
Where does the error lay? Did the editorial writer at LifeSiteNews misconstrue the Huffington Post story? Here is the lede from the Huffington Post — what would you take this to mean?
A “very damaged” 13-year-old girl was ordered to have an abortion by Britain’s most senior family judge, it has been revealed.
However, other press reports of the incident did not say the judge compelled the girl to have an abortion. The Daily Mail reported the girl had at first declined to have an abortion, but then wanted to have an abortion.
The judge said evidence had been prepared on the basis that the teenager was opposed to a termination. But when the hearing began she was ‘wavering’ and by the end she had wanted a termination. He said the ‘preponderance of evidence” pointed to a termination being in the girl’s best interests and said he had, in any event, concluded that a termination was in her best interests.
The Huffington Post piece did hint at a change of mind.
But Sir James said the girl’s opposition to an abortion had wavered during the hearing. “It was clearly appropriate for me to supply the necessary consent to enable the termination to proceed,” he said.