The appellant, CES, brought a medical negligence case against the respondent, Superclinics, seeking damages for loss of the opportunity to terminate her pregnancy after a number of medical practitioners repeatedly failed to properly diagnose her pregnancy. The medical negligence claim aside, the Court of Appeal considered the decision of R v. Wald – namely that that an abortion is lawful if a doctor is able to say that, in the particular woman’s circumstances, an abortion is required to avoid a “serious danger to her life or to her physical or mental health” (including “the effects of economic or social stress”). Justice Kirby liberalized and extended the R v Wald decision by finding that when determining whether to perform an abortion, consideration should be given not only to the woman’s health during the pregnancy, but also after the child is born. Justice Kirby’s interpretation of the law now represents the legal position in New South Wales, Australia.
Women and Justice: Keywords
Dr. Charles Kenneth Davidson was a medical doctor charged with four counts of unlawfully using an instrument and one count of conspiring to use an instrument or other means with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman. The Court found that an abortion would be lawful if the accused held an honest and reasonable belief that the abortion was both “necessary” and “proportionate.” In this context, “necessary” means that the abortion was necessary to prevent serious harm to the woman’s life and/or physical or mental health, beyond the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth. “Proportionate” means the abortion was not out proportion with the danger to be averted. The jury applied Menhennitt J’s interpretation of the law and acquitted Dr. Davidson of the charges.
* This is a landmark decision, which has not been re-examined, despite several cases in which it could have been. Therefore, this decision continues to represent the legal position in Victoria, Australia.
Kentucky law requires abortions to be performed at healthcare facilities licensed by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, but private physicians’ practices are exempt from this licensing requirement. The Cabinet brought suit against EMW Women’s Clinic of Lexington, Kentucky, to force it to comply with the licensing requirement and requested a temporary injunction to prevent the clinic from performing abortions until the courts determined its legal status as either an abortion provider, which would require the license, or a private physician’s officer. The Fayette Circuit Court denied the Cabinet’s request for an injunction, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed and imposed the requested injunction, finding that the Cabinet was entitled to a presumption of irreparable injury because it demonstrated a “reasonable probability” of injury without the injunction. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the Court of Appeals had not abused its discretion.