- Getty Images Europe/Peter Dazeley
- A UK judge authorized doctors to perform an abortion on a 22-weeks pregnant London woman in her twenties who is believed to have the mental capacity of a child between the ages of 6 and 9.
- The woman’s family opposed the abortion, but the woman is under the care of a UK National Health Service trust, where doctors argued an abortion would be less traumatic than giving birth.
- The case was heard in the Court of Protection, which handles cases concerning individuals who are judged to lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
- Read more stories like this on INSIDER.
A UK judge authorized doctors to perform an abortion on a 22-weeks pregnant London woman in her twenties after deciding it was in the best interest of the woman, whose developmental disabilities and mood disorder are believed to give her the mental capacity of a child between the ages of six and nine.
The woman’s family opposed the abortion procedure, but the woman’s doctors in a UK National Health Service Trust argued that an abortion would be less traumatic than giving birth, and the judge decided that giving a child up for adoption would cause the woman to “suffer greater trauma.”
“I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion,” Justice Nathalie Lieven said in her ruling, according to The Independent. “I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.”‘
The case was heard in the Court of Protection, which delivers rulings concerning individuals who are judged to lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. It ruled the woman in this case could not be publicly named.
Police are currently investigating the circumstances of how the woman became pregnant, but the court only heard they were unclear.
Lawyers for the woman’s family and a social worker reportedly contended that the woman’s mother would raise the baby with the woman’s help, which Lieven objected to because of the woman’s psychological limitations.
The woman, who lives with her mother, reportedly objected to the abortion herself, but Lieven said she does not believe the woman understands what it means to have a baby.
“I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” Lieven said.
Lieven cited her decision as “enormous” and based on “heartbreaking” evidence, along with the 1967 Abortion Act and the 2005 Mental Capacity Act.
Read more: Before Roe v. Wade, desperate women used coat hangers, Coke bottles, Clorox, and sticks in attempted abortions
The 1967 Abortion Act in the UK made abortion legal under most circumstances in England, Wales, and Scotland. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except in cases where pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.
The 2005 Mental Capacity Act says decisions made for those over the age of 16 must be made in their best interests.
- A woman uses a Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller spray without glyphosate in a garden in Ercuis near Paris, France.
- Benoit Tessier/Reuters
- A jury recently ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a plaintiff who alleged that his cancer was the result of using Roundup, the company’s popular herbicide.
- On Wednesday, a California judge cut that amount to $49 million.
- Neither the original trial nor the latest finding mean that glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup – causes cancer.
- Instead, the jury’s ruling is based on their assertion that Monsanto intentionally kept information about Roundup’s potential risks hidden from the public.
- The science linking glyphosate and cancer is limited at best, and experts say it’s safe.
A jury in San Francisco this summer ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper who developed cancer after years of using Roundup, the company’s popular herbicide. But on Wednesday, a California judge dealt a major blow to that decision, reducing the penalty to $49 million or about a fifth of the original amount.
Importantly, neither the trial’s original outcome – nor the latest decision – reveal anything about the science behind Roundup and cancer.
Instead, the decisions simply shed light on how a judge and members of a jury felt about whether Monsanto (which recently merged with chemical giant Bayer and announced plans to dissolve its name) intentionally kept information about Roundup’s potential harms from the public.
While the jury clearly felt Monsanto hid information, the judge in the latest ruling appeared to believe they were less at fault than originally decided. The lawsuit is just the first part of what could be a decades-long legal fight over Roundup’s chief ingredient, a chemical called glyphosate.
When it comes to the science, the evidence tying glyphosate to cancer is limited at best. Most scientists say that it is safe to use.
Could Roundup have caused someone’s cancer? Probably not.
- Monsanto Co’s Roundup shown for sale in California
- Thomson Reuters
Before developing a type of cancer known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the plaintiff in the recent trial, Dewayne Johnson, had used Roundup regularly in his job as a groundskeeper at a California public school. For neglecting to alert Johnson (and the rest of the public) about the potential links between Roundup and cancer, the jury ordered Monsanto to pay Johnson $39 million to cover his medical bills, pain, and suffering, plus an additional $250 million for punitive damages (or punishment).
But as for whether Roundup could actually have been the sole or even primary cause of an individual’s cancer, the research leans heavily toward “no.”
The scare over a potential link between Roundup and cancer appears to have begun with a now widely-criticized statement put out by a World Health Organization group known as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015.
That year, the IARC put glyphosate – Roundup’s active ingredient – in a cancer-risk category one level below widely-recognized harmful activities like smoking. But several researchers have said the IARC’s determination was bogus because there is no evidence that glyphosate causes cancer. In fact, a lengthy review found that the IARC had edited out portions of the documents they used to review glyphosate to make the chemical look far more harmful than its own research had concluded.
During the latest court case, Monsanto attempted to counter plaintiff Johnson’s claims that Roundup caused his cancer using extensive testimony from expert witnesses. They pointed out that the evidence definitively linking the glyphosate in Roundup to cancer is scant. More broadly, figuring out what caused one individual’s cancer is a tricky business for any scientist – a point several experts have made since the most recent Monsanto verdict came out last week.
“This verdict is just the first in what could be a long legal battle over Roundup, and proving causality in such cases is not easy,” Richard Stevens, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine who specializes in cancer and its causes, wrote in a recent post for The Conversation.
New research could change the controversial classification of glyphosate
The IARC’s 2015 statement is not final.
“The agency has often changed its classification of an agent based on new evidence after initial evaluation,” Stevens wrote. “Sometimes it has become more certain that the agent poses a hazard, but in other cases it has downgraded the hazard.”
Based on new studies (typically in mice), glyphosate could go from its current status – where some people see it as a potential cancer risk – to being recognized as having a very low risk for harm.
Several studies of glyphosate and cancer are ongoing, and more are coming out each year. Just last year, a review of studies looking at the ties between glyphosate and cancer concluded that in the low amounts of that people are actually exposed to, glyphosate “do[es] not represent a public concern.”
Conversely, the new evidence could come out strongly against glyphosate and suggest that it’s incredibly harmful. As Stevens points out, new evidence dramatically changed the public perception of another popular product which was initially labeled cancerous – a zero-calorie sweetener called saccharin, which is sold under the brand name Sweet’ N Low.
In the 1980s, any product containing the sweetener was required to carry a warning label saying that it was “determined to cause cancer.” But the science was flawed: the rats that had been used in the studies were especially prone to bladder cancer, and the findings did not apply to people. So in 2016, the sweetener was removed from a list of cancer-causing ingredients.
But glyphosate’s status remains to be seen. For now, the court cases merely reflect the determinations of juries and judges – not the conclusions of the majority of scientific experts.