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May 9, 2004 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Monroe County Family Court Judge Marilyn O'Connor ruled March 31 that two parents "should not have yet another child which must be cared for at public expense."
Unconstitutional? Maybe. But not sufficiently so for the NY ACLU to say much anything about it. Maybe the Judge could have recommended the same sex-ed scheme that shows, in parts of England and Wales where it [called A Pause] was trialled in 104 schools, sexual intercourse among 16-year-olds fell by up to 20 per cent. Now that may mean we have to have more discussion of oral and manual, with less genital-genital emphasis. Anything that promotes the right to say 'no' amongst vulnerable young folks is alright by me.
posted by dash_slot- (19 comments total)

 
Personally, my view is that this is gonna be a hard-to-enforce ruling - using contempt laws to jail a mum who falls pregnant may work, but at what cost to the child, who's likely to be fostered from the get-go?

Why not offer contraceptive inserts and probation, or a [reversible?] snip to the feckless dad? Or, to relate the two stories, could they be trained to, erm, service each other in a safer way? They don't seem the caring, organised types, do they?
posted by dash_slot- at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2004


To my knowledge - please correct me if I'm wrong - saving money is never in of itself a compelling state interest sufficient to infringe on a fundamental constitutional right. So assuming that this falls within the rule of Skinner v. Oklahoma, the order unconstitutionally infringes on the parents' fundamental right to procreate.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:38 AM on May 9, 2004


The Observer offers some UK suggestions on this.




posted by donfactor at 11:49 AM on May 9, 2004


Sterilisation is definately not always reversible, and compulsory surgery seems like a very bad idea anyway.

Also, just out of interest: Why are you suggesting vasectomy but not not tubal ligation? Since it's more usual for childeren to be brought up by the mother when born out of wedlock, I'd say if anything it makes more sense for the mother to be sterilised (or both). Though, as said, making it compulsory seems like asking for trouble.
posted by fvw at 12:14 PM on May 9, 2004


the parents' fundamental right to procreate

Folks, I believe we have just stumbled upon the most frightening phrase in the English language. *shudder*
posted by kindall at 12:37 PM on May 9, 2004


saving money is never in of itself a compelling state interest sufficient to infringe on a fundamental constitutional right - rightly so. I think we need to keep in mind the rights of the child too, to be brought up with his parents wherever possible. It would presumably be not for reasons of cost that the state removed the children in the first place, though the welfare of the child is mystifyingly left out of her decision. Is that because the public purse is a more potent symbol than childcar? How sad.

Also, just out of interest: Why are you suggesting vasectomy but not not tubal ligation? Well, from your words, fvw ol' pal, I'd say you were splitting hairs. The issue is contraception, and underlying that, child welfare: I couldnt care less if the parents were snipped (individually or together), implanted or forced to take hormones in the presence of a doctor (or other public official).

We do not have to undergo training to procreate, therefore folk assume that it is a right which - no matter subsequent conduct - cannot be removed from them. I would say that there is sufficient concern on child welfare grounds thet one's 'right' (which may in fact be a myth in some states anyway) can be abrogated if one fails certain tests.

These guys
[Neither parent attended the proceeding or secured legal representation. The mother waived her right to a lawyer, and the father never showed up in court.

The mother was found to have neglected her four children, ages 1, 2, 4 and 5. All three children who were tested for cocaine tested positive, according to court papers. Both parents had a history of drug abuse. It was not immediately clear if the father had other children.

A case worker testified that the parents ignored an order to get mental health treatment and attend parenting classes after the 1-year-old was born]
would have certainly not made the grade.

On preview: kindall sums it up.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2004


I would personally say that if their kids get tested positive for cocaine they should be sterilized.

However, that might not be reversible and who knows, perhaps they see the light and improve their lives later on. So that seems a bit of cruel punishment, not to mention unusual.

Also if you take away people's right to have babies based on some tests you are on a slippery slope. Today it might be people who abandon their children and can't take care of them. However if you are mentally handicapped can you take care of your children? What about if you are very poor and are on welfare? Do the taxpayers have to pay for your right to have kids?

Will somebody please think of the children?
posted by sebas at 1:04 PM on May 9, 2004


Kind of a fundamental "free society" question, isn't it? On the one hand, I'm not sure that procreation should be an inalienable right, particularly given the consequences to society and the potential child in question. On the other hand, it's sort of a slippery slope from here to eugenics, isn't it? Why stop with negligent raising -- couldn't we consider passing on "bad" genes just as troublesome, from society's standpoint? Also, if we can forbid people to have children because we don't like the way that they care for them, whose standards do we apply?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 1:40 PM on May 9, 2004


It would presumably be not for reasons of cost that the state removed the children in the first place, though the welfare of the child is mystifyingly left out of her decision.

The right to raise your children is indeed another "fundamental" right under the Due Process Clause. But if the state can show that the parents are unfit or neglectful, it has a compelling interest to infringe on this right.

By the same reasoning, the state can prohibit or restrict abortion past the point of viability outside of the womb: the state's interest in preserving existing life outweighs the fundamental right to abortion.

Folks, I believe we have just stumbled upon the most frightening phrase in the English language.

Frightening perhaps, but very much the law. In many ways, Skinner (protecting the right to procreate) spawned Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird (protecting the right to not procreate) which spawned Roe v. Wade (protecting the right to terminate pregnancy.) If you support Roe you should be supporting the parents in this case; as odious as these people are, their rights are central and basic to a free society.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:37 PM on May 9, 2004


From the article, it appears there are no specific enforcement mechanisms enumerated in the decision. But suppose it were to be enforced - how is that different from forced abortion? Once again, I must invoke the Chinese Equivalency Rule, to wit: If it's not okay for China to do it, then it's not okay for the United States to do it. Not to mention that the likelihood of such a power of compulsory sterilization being fairly and equally applied across race and class lines is pretty much nil. That a whole other can of worms. But we've been down this road before. Put simply, the state should not have the power to compel contraception, sterilization, or abortion, or in any other way to infringe upon our reproductive rights.

I'm sure there will be counterarguments that the United States is not China, or that the United States then is not the United States now. We can trust our government, they'll say; state-sponsored racism is a thing of the past. I must respectfully disagree.

On preview: What LilMissCranky and PrinceValium said.
posted by skoosh at 2:58 PM on May 9, 2004


I dunno what your laws are, but they kinda don't apply all over the world, at the moment.

From my point of view, it seems that human rights are breached in the US every day [say, in prisons], in a way which europeans find inexplicable. I am not advocating a class, race or income test to the 'mandatory parenting ban'. I am saying only that if the state has had to look after your 4 previous children, plus you have no income, plus you have a drug addiction which your kids have suffered from too, then you lose the right to procreate. The numbers would be small - smaller than the numbers who have their rights (amongst other things) violated daily in the States.

Additionally, proactive educational measures which addressed teen sexuality, contraception and related harm reduction would not go amiss (the squeamishness some parents have about this is common all over the world).

Sometimes, commonsense, rationality and facts on the ground trump entitlement.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:22 PM on May 9, 2004


A decent society must revoke rights from the undeserving if the deserving are to be free to enjoy their rights.
posted by MattD at 3:34 PM on May 9, 2004


Oral sex lessons to cut rates of teenage pregnancy

This gives rise to some ugly mental images concerning my sex ed teacher.
posted by biffa at 3:40 PM on May 9, 2004


Mine too, come to think of it.

Wish I hadn't said that now...
posted by dash_slot- at 4:24 PM on May 9, 2004


A decent society must revoke rights from the undeserving if the deserving are to be free to enjoy their rights.

I am unable to parse this sentence in any way that doesn't disburb me.
posted by deadcowdan at 6:41 PM on May 9, 2004


disturbed, even.
posted by deadcowdan at 6:42 PM on May 9, 2004


They were banned from having children because of the expense to the public purse, it would seem - not because of the welfare of the children. That just strikes me as a pretty grotty motive.

"This court believes the constitutional right to have children is overcome when society must bear the financial and everyday burden of care."

There are plenty of more effective ways to trim public expenditure. Society bears the financial cost of lots of bad things: from Microsoft's monopoly to GWB's personal vendettas, underfunded public education to huge corporate tax breaks. Big savings/gains could be made through addressing these issues rather than through the penny-pinching and human-rights abusing pronouncements of this mean-minded member of the judiciary.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:12 PM on May 9, 2004


Disbourbon for everyone!
posted by trondant at 8:03 PM on May 9, 2004


deadcowdan - howzabout jail? seems to me to fit that description.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 PM on May 9, 2004


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