Forced abortion claim by woman against her parents and sister dismissed by B.C. judge

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      She testified that she wanted to keep her baby.

      But she also told the court that her parents and sister forced her to have an abortion.

      She was 17 in North Vancouver at the time.

      Now 44, the woman claims that she continues to suffer from the psychological effects of the abortion.

      The woman’s parents and sister have a different version of what happened 27 years ago.

      They said that it was her decision to abort the child.

      There were a few things they agreed on.

      One is that they all went to a clinic in Renton, Washington, around May 1992, where the woman had the abortion.

      Another is that the woman, Harriet Eva Hughes, also known as Maria Hughes, was a rebellious teen.

      In 2010, she sued her parents John and Rosamond Hughes, claiming they coerced her to have an abortion.

      She commenced another action in 2018, this time against her sister Ariana Hughes, alleging that the sibling acted in concert with the parents.

      It wasn’t an easy case, according to B.C. Supreme Court justice Laura Gerow.

      “This case is challenging because the events at issue took place approximately 27 years ago,” Gerow wrote in her reasons for judgment dated July 9, 2019.

      Because of the conflicting versions, credibility is a “key issue” for Gerow, who dismissed the woman’s action against her parents and sister.

      “In my view, the plaintiff’s evidence that her parents and sister forced or coerced her to have the abortion in 1992 does not ring true and is not consistent with other evidence,” Gerow wrote. “The plaintiff agreed that since the age of 14 she did not do what her parents asked her to do when she did not agree with it.”

      Gerow noted that the woman testified that “she knew it was hard for her parents to deal with her and what she wanted to do but she did it anyways”.

      “Given her strong personality, which was evident during her testimony, and consistent defiance of the rules her parents attempted to enforce, I find it improbable that the plaintiff’s parents or sister could have forced her or coerced into doing anything,” Gerow wrote.

      “From the age of 14, the plaintiff came and went when she wanted, and did things despite her parents’ concerns or rules,” the judge continued. “I do not accept the plaintiff’s evidence that she was a victim of deliberate isolation and was coerced or forced by her parents to have an abortion.”

      Moreover, the woman’s claim “does not accord with the evidence about the time period leading up to the abortion”.

      “As set out, there is evidence that the plaintiff was taken to counselling, that her parents renovated their home, her mother bought maternity patterns to make her clothes, and her parents took her to a lawyer to discuss the various options available to her,” Gerow wrote.

      The woman does not deny she was a difficult teen.

      “The plaintiff’s evidence was that she started to feel resentful towards her parents when she entered her teen years,” Gerow wrote. “From about the age 13 onwards, the plaintiff had difficulty living at her parents’ home and following their rules. She was strong willed and did what she wanted.”

      “By grade 9, the plaintiff smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, and dated despite knowing her parents did not want her to do those things,” according to Gerow. “She came and went without telling her parents where she was going or when she would return. The plaintiff testified that during her teenage years she would do things out of spite that her parents did not like.”

      The judge also noted that it was “apparent from her testimony that the plaintiff was extremely angry and frustrated with her parents well before 1992”.

      “During her testimony the plaintiff became visibly angry when speaking about her parents and her father in particular, and was very dramatic about their shortcomings,” Gerow wrote.

      On the other hand, the judge found that the woman’s parents and sister “gave their evidence in a straightforward and forthright manner”.

      “Both Mr. Hughes and Mrs. Hughes were candid about their lack of memory for dates and events that had occurred in the 1980s and 1990s,” Gerow wrote. “None of the individual defendants attempted to characterize the plaintiff in a negative light or disparage her.”

      The defendants “all acknowledged it was a difficult time for the plaintiff and they were trying to support her in her decision, whatever it might be”.