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171 Responses

  1. Liz Henry
    Liz Henry April 19, 2008 at 6:25 pm |

    Good.

    But bad and disheartening that it was even in question.

  2. pocochina
    pocochina April 19, 2008 at 6:39 pm |

    I’m pissed this was even a question, but since I know it is all too often, I’m cheering the outcome. This is a small, but certain, step in the right direction.

  3. Anna
    Anna April 19, 2008 at 7:10 pm |

    We often treat disabled people as though they are undeserving of certain things in life, and sexuality and parenthood are pretty high up on that list

    Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Yes.

    Since this is a topic that makes me white-hot with rage, that’s about all I say on it. But yes.

    Thank you for posting it.

  4. Ruth
    Ruth April 19, 2008 at 7:23 pm |

    I do not think that being unable to raise your children on your own makes you unworthy of giving birth to and raising children.

    I’m going to get slammed, I’m sure, but as the mother of a disabled child (a boy, which makes my personal situation slightly easier) I don’t know how to feel about this statement. Who exactly IS supposed to raise a child born to a woman who is truly incapable of doing so on her own? I realize that abuses have been and may still be rampant, and many disabilities do not affect a person’s ability to parent, but honestly, if this woman gets pregnant, who’s on the hook for raising that child? The aunt, who is already caring for KEJ?

  5. Stentor
    Stentor April 19, 2008 at 7:38 pm |

    if this woman gets pregnant, who’s on the hook for raising that child?
    The father, hopefully?

    You do raise a good point, that justice for disabled people has to be coupled with justice for caretakers (both paid and kin). If we had a better and broader support system for disabled people, we wouldn’t be tempted to contemplate limiting disabled people’s rights in order to take burdens off of caretakers.

  6. Jennifer
    Jennifer April 19, 2008 at 7:44 pm |

    Sorry, but I agree with Ruth. Isn’t KEJ’s aunt already overloaded with KEJ without having to take care of her child as well? Who is going to take care of it if she gets pregnant? I can’t be all “yay, she can have kids!” if it’s only going to make things harder.

    (For the record: had a disabled parent.)

    I’m not necessarily for sterilization if other birth control is out there, but it sounds like KEJ definitely wants to make this situation happen, and I’m sorry for the aunt.

  7. felagund
    felagund April 19, 2008 at 7:45 pm |

    I do not think that being unable to raise your children on your own makes you unworthy of giving birth to and raising children

    This is just logically incoherent. Who in the world is going to raise that child? Our tax dollars? Relatives dragooned into service through state power or shame? What if the disability is congenital and the child needs as much or more care than the parent?

    I agree with your basic point, that forced sterilization is something to be avoided. But people who are emotionally, or physically, or financially incapable of providing a decent quality of life for their children shouldn’t reproduce.

  8. Rebecca
    Rebecca April 19, 2008 at 7:48 pm |

    I agree with Ruth. I think forced sterilization is horrid BUT I have to wonder how typing this sentence: do not think that being unable to raise your children on your own makes you unworthy of giving birth to and raising children. didn’t make your head spin around. KEJ is unable to live alone, cannot be trusted around the stove and is dependent on her aunt. If she is unable to care for herself, how in the world is she capable of caring for a child?

    If she wants to be around small children and believes she has something to offer to them in the way of love and acceptance of people who are different, she can volunteer at day care centers, after school programs or big sister programs. Just because one desires to use one’s female organs is no reason to bring a child into the world, not when there are children already here desperate for love and attention.

  9. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp April 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm |

    It’s a very short jump from “this disabled woman cannot care for any children she might bear, so let’s sterilize her” to “this poor woman cannot care for any children she might bear, so let’s sterilize her.” A very, very short jump.

  10. exholt
    exholt April 19, 2008 at 8:36 pm |

    undeserving of certain things in life,…parenthood are pretty high up on that list.

    While I agree with this ruling due to the fact history has shown that giving the state powers such overreaching invasive powers means that there is too much risk for abuse, the sentence you wrote above is a bit disquieting.

    Though I am certain you did not mean it as such, it is reminiscent of too many overentitled upper/upper-middle class adults I’ve encountered at work who saw parenthood as an entitlement to be enjoyed and children as mere accessories to their lives rather than younger human beings who need loving guidance and understanding. Most children I’ve met in school who had such parents tended to become maladjusted individuals who are resentful towards their parents later in life for being treated more like a product to be enjoyed, consumed, and later ignored when s(he) is older and no longer “so cute”.

  11. JenLovesPonies
    JenLovesPonies April 19, 2008 at 8:46 pm |

    I am going back and forth on this, personally. When I first read it, I thought, “Well, she sounds like a perfect canidate for sterilization”. While I am not her doctor and don’t know her personally, I could certainly understand why someone who can’t take care of themself is not going to be a great parent. The article didn’t provide much information on her actual condition, but if she is mentally limited in some way- possible in this case- and unable to live by herself, it would seem almost cruel to the aunt who has already taken on a person who will apparently never be able to move out. It is also likely that KEJ cannot financially support herself, so in the event that her aunt dies, who will care for her and her offspring? And while this is not the case for KEJ specifically, certainly there are some people whose problems are going to be passed to their offspring, making the caretaker work even harder.

    Again, depending on her actual condition, it is possible KEJ has a limited social circle, possibly one filled only with her aunt and other people who are unable to care for themselves. So depending on the father of the child[ren], it may or may not be possible for him to take care of the children, if he even wants to, which he may not.

    On the other hand, I really dislike the idea that all women who are financially unable to care for children be sterilized. For one thing, poverty is not necessarily forever.

    I realize that in a perfect world, there would be support in place for KEJ and her aunt, and it would be more likely that KEJ and her child could have a good life in the event of her aunt’s death. But if we are looking at what is, right now, in the real world, where other birth control does not work for this woman, and she cannot care for herself, and she wants children but cannot care for them in a proper way… I just don’t know.

    For the record, I am not convinced that people have a right to have children. I have been thinking about this a lot since the thread on Feministe about the rich Westerners using Indian women to bear their children, and the only way I can justify that in my mind is if those Westerners have a right to have children. I can justify stealing food, for instance, because people have a right to have food, but I am not sure we have a right to bear our own children.

  12. Danakitty
    Danakitty April 19, 2008 at 8:51 pm |

    I guess I too, am struggling with this decision in my head. On one hand I’m thinking, “That’s awesome! It’s about time we stopped controlling how people with disabilities live!” But on the other I am thinking about the life of her child and what would happen to him or her.

    Now I won’t pretend to know the extent of KEJ’s disabilities … I can say I know for a fact that some people can and do and will make great parents regardless of whatever impairs them, whether that ranges from minor mental disabilities to major physical disabilities or anywhere in between. But I also have to look at the whole spectrum and say, yes, there are some people who would be toodisabled to have a child, like in the case where the child could not be safely and comfortably left alone in the same room as his or her mother.

    I do think it would be unfair to push that child on someone else (the mother’s parents or private caretakers). It’s unfair to the others, and it’s unfair to the child. It’s like giving a puppy to your friend, but your friend doesn’t have the time/patience/love/etc. to take care of it and pushes it off on her roommate, who grudgingly obliges because her roommate doesn’t want the puppy to be unhappy and starve to death. That’s not how children should be brought up!

    Perhaps we could start a service that’s like a combination of home care and child care, where a caregiver can act as both second (or third) parent and nursing staff, and give disabled parents more help in the home where they need it when it comes to having children.

    But I don’t know. This is just one of those issues that I feel torn on both sides and while I think forced sterilization isn’t a solution, I don’t know what is.

  13. Entomologista
    Entomologista April 19, 2008 at 9:07 pm |

    Forced sterilization is not the answer. However, somebody with the mind of a child should not be raising a child. The difference between a poor person having children and a mentally disabled individual having children is that the poor person just needs things like cheap daycare while they are at work. You can give somebody money, but you can’t give somebody a functional brain. We take children away from unfit parents (abuse, neglect) and the mentally disabled would almost certainly be unfit. So yes, these kids would be in foster care or pushed off onto an already overburdened relative. And that’s stupid.

    Anyway, isn’t it against the law to have sex with the mentally disabled? So how are they going to get babies to begin with?

  14. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea April 19, 2008 at 9:09 pm |

    By the same logic, if a person who is “not capable of caring for a child on her own” does not have a right to reproduce, neither do poor women or for Christ’s sake, single working mothers. Don’t give me an “it’s different’ lecture — it’s degrees of difference. All parents use child care, and some rich people have around the clock nannies that they don’t actually need. But no one is trying to take away their right to reproduction.

    Yes. That.

    I don’t blame everyone who has reservations in this situation, because that’s only logical but the bottom line is that I’m against taking away this woman’s rights.

    I get frustrated every time this sort of issue comes up with the automatic “What about her poor aunt?” What about the woman herself?

    If people wanted to deal with this for her own good that could also be taken too far, but I’m definitely not dripping with sympathy for her aunt’s desire to sterilize her against her will, sorry.

  15. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea April 19, 2008 at 9:10 pm |

    (I realize people are not agreeing with the forced sterilization, but there’s still seems to be a sentiment of “as long as she doesn’t actually have kids and her aunt has to deal with that”)

  16. meeneecat
    meeneecat April 19, 2008 at 9:12 pm |

    For the commentators here who have suggested that “disabled” people can’t (or shouldn’t) have and raise kids, let me remind you all that there are many different definitions of “disabled”. Someone can have limited mobility yet still be able to have and raise children. Someone can have a mental disorder such as bipolar/depression/PTSD/etc. and still have the ability to have and raise kids. Someone with lung/heart/liver/whatever problems can be “disabled”, but still can have and raise kids. Some people may not be well enough to have kids, but that should always be a decision between the “disabled” person and their doctor, NOT something that is left up to the government.

    There are many definitions of “disabled”, and the fact that some of you would assume that “disabled” people cannot do absolutely anything for themselves and others is downright prejudiced. I’m sorry but I’m calling out your shit, some of you (not all of you) people need to reexamine your own privilege as fully able-bodied people. … “disability” can mean a range of definitions, not the narrow “this person can’t do anything, let alone have kids” definition that some seem to be suggesting. Reproductive freedom needs to be protected for ALL women, not just able bodied women.

  17. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea April 19, 2008 at 9:19 pm |

    For the record, I am not convinced that people have a right to have children. I have been thinking about this a lot since the thread on Feministe about the rich Westerners using Indian women to bear their children, and the only way I can justify that in my mind is if those Westerners have a right to have children. I can justify stealing food, for instance, because people have a right to have food, but I am not sure we have a right to bear our own children.

    Except they weren’t becoming pregnant and carrying children; they were having other women do it for them in a manner that brought up serious ethical issues.

    I’m not saying people only have the right to have children when they can concieve and bear them themselves, either! But it’s not the same ethical issue at hand.

  18. Vanessa
    Vanessa April 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm |

    You know, instead of thinking of everyone other than the disabled woman here, let’s think about *her* for a minute.

    How about, how unfair it would be for her to experience fucking surgery against her will?

  19. corey
    corey April 19, 2008 at 9:48 pm |

    Having a cognitive disability does not equal having the mind of a child. Disabled adults are just that- adults. While they may not function cognitively on the same levels as the “average” person of comparable age, it doesn’t take away years of life experience or their right to be treated as the grown people they are.

  20. LeggoMyMeggo
    LeggoMyMeggo April 19, 2008 at 9:55 pm |

    How is forced sterilization/infertility (via unwanted birth control) ideologically different from forced pregnancy? It just blows my mind that pro-choice feminists are trying to decree who should and should not be allowed to have children.

    Like others have already said, it is just a hop, skip, and a jump to deciding people with mental illness, people living in poverty, people of color, etc., should not have children.

    I also can understand how this issue stirs up a lot of stuff in people; I used to work with people who were developmentally disabled as well as mentally ill, and reproductive and sexual rights were often in the air. But when issues like this come up in the media, there seems to be this pervasive basic assumption that people with developmental disabilities are less than human, and not deserving of basic human rights. Can KEJ make a “rational” decision to have a child? Maybe, maybe not. Can a 15 year-old girl?

    Where do we draw the line? And who gets to be the line-drawers?

  21. Miss Nomered
    Miss Nomered April 19, 2008 at 10:01 pm |

    Although I don’t think all people are fit to raise children, forced sterilization is not the answer. After all, if she has no capacity to consent to sex, then any sexual contact with her would be rape. And why is it so hard to just say that it’s wrong to rape, period?

    Also, having a disability does not automatically make one an unfit parent. For example, I have been told I likely have Asperger Syndrome/high-functioning autism, and I would love to adopt kids one day, as well as become a foster parent. In fact, I’d love to adopt kids with disabilities, especially autistic kids, because I think they’d really benefit from somebody who understands them. Although my situation is definitely not the same, I hate it when people say people with disabilities can’t, or shouldn’t, raise children.

  22. Bill
    Bill April 19, 2008 at 10:25 pm |

    I don’t know the details of the mental status of the woman in this case, but I am wondering whether there is ever any situation where forced birth control measures are acceptable. Is there any mental status that would require forced birth control measures?

    This video is probably fake, but it’s interesting in light of Leggo’s comment on a 15-year-old.

  23. kathygnome
    kathygnome April 19, 2008 at 10:28 pm |

    “Who in the world is going to raise that child? Our tax dollars?”

    I think you’re trying to be flippant, but I would actually support that fully.

    I just sent some tax dollars in to the government April 15. They are incapable of raising a child. They can pay the expenses of of a child, but they cannot raise a child.

    People are talking about the woman’s rights. The abilities of her aunt. What about the life of a potential child? What kind of life would it be? Things happen in life that make childhood less than perfect, but do we need to bring a child into the world with that kind of weight around its neck?

  24. mandi
    mandi April 19, 2008 at 10:43 pm |

    “What about the life of a potential child? What kind of life would it be?”

    You’re joking, right? You’re in favor of privileging the *non-existent* over a woman?

    And “we” wouldn’t be bringing a child into the world, she would. That’s the point, that “we” have shit all to do with it, and thus can’t force KEJ to be sterilized.

  25. Cherish
    Cherish April 19, 2008 at 11:06 pm |

    This is a difficult one, but I think there is a difference between a disabled person, i.e. someone who may have some sort of limited function but can live a normal life and can care for herself, and a person who is unable to care for herself. Someone who is incapable of caring for herself is going to put her guardian in a pickle if she gets pregnant. Someone who is disabled but can provide for the physical and emotional needs of a child is different than someone who physically cannot, and that ought to be taken into consideration before the child shows up.

    I don’t think this is a eugenics issue because KEJ’s disability is not congenital. She wasn’t born this way; she was hit by a car. The concern is not about how the baby will turn out but finding someone who would be the guardian of the baby. On the other hand, some of the issue may center around birth control versus sterilization. Perhaps they are saying that even though she has a “bad reaction” to birth control, they may think that keeping her on it despite her reaction may be a better option than sterilization/surgery. I can completely understand that stance.

  26. Flamethorn
    Flamethorn April 20, 2008 at 12:27 am |

    So, Rosehiptea, you are going to move in with this woman and care for her child? I’m certainly not.

    Look, there are well over six billion people on this planet. No one has a fundamental right to reproduction any more than they have a fundamental right to shove more people into an elevator filled to capacity. I’d be perfectly happy to see every single human on this planet sterilized, if it could be done with a magical wave of the hand and not having to invade/violate anyone’s actual personal bits. And yes, I’d be first in line. (As it is, I have neither the time nor the money to get sterilized nor, being single and involuntarily celibate, a pressing need.)

    And I realize that this comment is going to get me hated by all the touchy feely fluffy wombyn types. But seriously. Look around. This world NEEDS more children?

  27. Gina
    Gina April 20, 2008 at 12:59 am |

    Sorry, I think bodily autonomy trumps all. No one should be forcibly sterilized–as Vanessa said above, how fucking traumatic would that be for a person? I understand where people are coming from when they bring up practical issues like child care, and there’s no perfect solution. But the idea of having the government decide who can have kids and who can’t is creepy to say the least.

  28. The Girl Detective
    The Girl Detective April 20, 2008 at 1:01 am |

    A couple of other commenters have already said this, but “cannot care for a child on her own” doesn’t equal “cannot care for a child at all.” I think we need to give her the benefit of the doubt here.

    Also, a lot of people seem to be assuming that the father would be absent after the baby was born. Do you really think there’s no chance that K.E.J. could find someone who loves and wants to have a child with her? Do you think that K.E.J. will make no effort to work something out? We know barely anything about her, but people are assuming that she’s completely helpless.

  29. Mags
    Mags April 20, 2008 at 1:18 am |

    But I will say that it’s not illegal to have sex with someone with a mental disability, it is illegal to have sex with someone who cannot consent. Having a mental disability, though you seem to think that it means not having a “functioning brain,” does not necessarily mean that you cannot consent.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the general point, but in this specific case, I’d say that “she cannot be left alone to operate a stove” pretty much implies that this woman is incapable of meaningful consent, if true, in the same way that a child is incapable of consent. I can’t think of an age of consent in the US, or a meaningful proxy therefore, where I would not trust the person in question to operate a stove.

    That’s not to say that I agree she should be involuntarily sterilized – that’s a whole other can of worms. But it seems a little flip to act as if this woman, as described, is not a prime target for victimization, and as if any situation by which she becomes pregnant is not cause for concern, at the least.

  30. Jill
    Jill April 20, 2008 at 2:36 am | *

    For the record, I am not convinced that people have a right to have children. I have been thinking about this a lot since the thread on Feministe about the rich Westerners using Indian women to bear their children, and the only way I can justify that in my mind is if those Westerners have a right to have children. I can justify stealing food, for instance, because people have a right to have food, but I am not sure we have a right to bear our own children.

    I think that’s mixing up the issues. The question is one of bodily autonomy and the right to be free from forced and coerced reproductive choices. The problem with developing-world surrogacy is that it’s inherently coercive; the problem here is that the sterilization is forced. So it’s not about the right to have children, exactly; it’s about the right to make reproductive choices free from outside interference.

    In that sense, I see the women financially coerced into child-bearing for a wealthier couple as being in a similar class as the woman forcibly sterilized.

  31. Jill
    Jill April 20, 2008 at 2:44 am | *

    Look, there are well over six billion people on this planet. No one has a fundamental right to reproduction any more than they have a fundamental right to shove more people into an elevator filled to capacity.

    But that’s not exactly the issue — the right to reproduce physically exists for most women. It’s something she can do without any sort of governmental interference.

    What we’re talking about here is whether or not her caregiver has the right to interfere with her existing, functioning body and remove her natural ability to reproduce. It’s not as if she’s asking someone to reproduce for her. It’s not as if she feels that she is entitled to children who share her own genetic make-up. It’s that she does NOT want to have an invasive surgery that actively denies her the ability to have children.

    And I realize that this comment is going to get me hated by all the touchy feely fluffy wombyn types. But seriously. Look around. This world NEEDS more children?

    I’m kind of shocked that pro-choice feminists don’t get that it’s not about the children. It’s not about the world “needing” or “not needing” more children. It’s about one’s right to choose — or NOT choose — to have a surgical procedure. It’s about bodily integrity and the right to decide for yourself when and whether and how you reproduce.

    There are a lot of well-intentioned people on this thread who are posing the question of how a potential child would be cared for if this woman is incapable of so much as operating a stove. And I think that’s an important question. Yes, I just wrote a post about how we can’t expect anyone to have all the answers, but I also recognize that in the here-and-now decision-making moments, we have to make choices — and in balancing harms, we aren’t always going to come out with the perfect feminist choice. So the issue of the aunt’s burden (and the burden on an inept state and foster care system) is a legitimate one. It’s a question that I think should be raised.

    But that question is a world away from “The world doesn’t need more kids, and therefore it’s ok to sterilized disabled people.” Overpopulation as an argument for forced sterilization is utterly unconvincing, and should be offensive to anyone with the loosest of pro-choice sensibilities.

  32. denelian
    denelian April 20, 2008 at 2:47 am |

    this kinda spins me in circles. here’s why

    i’m disabled (but, of course, SSI and SSDI hate me…) i have fibromalgia, accute intermitent porphyria (with a large chunk o nerve damage from it…) and some serious (but getting better) PTSD.

    i dont *WANT* to have kids – porphyria is genetic. and on top of the genetic, it makes pregnancy deadly. i’m 31.

    and NO ONE will give me a tubal litigation. because i might “change my mind” and decide to risk my life at some intangible future date. not just highly risk my life, but pretty much guarantee that if i live to give birth, and said imaginary intangible child survives to be birthed, that said child will suffer even MORE that i have.

    so, i totally get the general idea of not passing “bad” genes (ya know. like mine. that include all this wearisome pain…………)

    but i also get the whole pissed off “NO ONE tells me what to do with *MY* body!’ factor. because i AM being told what to do with my body, and so is this woman – who doesn’t have my genetic handicap.

    and really, i’m kinda bitter that she was almost forced to have the sterilization that i can’t get, and thats a really really fucked up thing to think. so my heads spinning.

  33. Lauredhel
    Lauredhel April 20, 2008 at 4:30 am |

    Many people believe that this is still happening, like with the Norplant situation several years back (also covered in Killing the Black body),

    I’m not sure if you follow Australian news, but the contraception issue has just blown up again here, with reports that 12-year-old girls with disabilities in rural/remote Aboriginal communities are having implants placed with questionable or non-existent consent procedures, and minimal discussion of the perpetrators of their rapes.

    ABC World Today:

    ANNIE GUEST: Jan Stuckey is from the Queensland Opposition. She’s told ABC Radio four girls have implants at Woorabinda Aboriginal Community, south west of Rockhampton in central Queensland.

    JAN STUCKEY: One child was simply taken off to have it put in. Others were showing off, rolling up their sleeves in a Year Eight class saying “Look, look, miss, look what we’ve got”.

    [...]

    ANNIE GUEST: Health authorities have confirmed they are injecting under-age girls with contraceptives.

    JAN STUCKEY: I’d like to say that this is not a common practice and it is only ever done in a situation where the individual is known to be having unsafe sex and is also not in a position to be responding to counselling and not in a position to make good decisions for themselves.

  34. Contraceptive implants for disabled Aboriginal 12-year-old girls at Hoyden About Town

    [...] to Cara at Feministe for reminding me that I was going to post this, with her post on disability and reproductive [...]

  35. meeneecat
    meeneecat April 20, 2008 at 8:33 am |

    “And I realize that this comment is going to get me hated by all the touchy feely fluffy wombyn types.”

    First of all. Fuck you. That was totally inappropriate. This has nothing to do with us being “feely fluffy wombyn”. And. talk about trying to invalidate an entire group of people’s comments because of their gender, you sexist douche.

    Second, I can’t believe that number of people on here that call them selves pro-choice and at the same time give nary a thought to sterilizing “disabled” people. WTF! More like a bunch of faux pro-choicer’s, (and faux feminists) if you ask me.

    Jill, I agree with you wholeheartedly and am sorry you are even having to offer an explanation for any of this.

  36. Jay
    Jay April 20, 2008 at 9:36 am |

    I don’t know how to do trackbacks but http://twowomenblogging.blogspot.com/2008/04/unpaid-work-of-women-by-jay.html is my spin on this, looking at a slightly different angle.

    Jill and Cara have this precisely right. The issue here is KEJ’s control over her own body. Raising any potential – and at this point theoretical – children is a social issue that deserves attention, but we can’t condone an assault on one woman’s bodily integrity just because we don’t have structures in place to appropriately support people with disabilities.

  37. LeggoMyMeggo
    LeggoMyMeggo April 20, 2008 at 9:38 am |

    As a therapist, I am kept gainfully employed by people whose parents were crappy parents, unable to meet their emotional and sometimes physical needs.
    But if someone made a court case lobbying to sterilize these people, everyone on this thread would be FREAKING out. And rightfully so!

    How dare we presume ourselves so morally/mentally/emotionally superior that we can say, “Well, there’s too many people in the world already, so it’s time to start controlling people’s reproduction. And we’ll start with the disabled, since their voices are often silenced anyway.”

    Don’t we argue that Bush’s sterilization campaign in developing countries is a violation of human rights? That people have the right to make informed decisions about their own bodies? Why is this different?

    And, on a note about consent, there are (at least in Illinois) varying levels of guardianship. One can be their own guardian for medical matters but not for legal, for example. MANY developmentally disabled people are their own guardians, whether or not they are able to be left alone around a stove. It doesn’t mean that they are capable of living alone without assistance, but it means they are able to make decisions about their own bodies.

    Here is some info from the Illinois Advocacy and Guardianship Commission:

    “HOW DOES ONE ASSESS THAT A PERSON MAY BE IN NEED OF GUARDIANSHIP?

    The fact that a person has a mental disability does not automatically dictate a need for guardianship. The test for determining the need for guardianship focuses on the ability of the person to make decisions and to properly communicate decisions once made. Making incorrect or ill-advised decisions on a periodic basis is not the test. Rather, it is an inability to engage in the decision making in the first place which is important. A practical set of questions that may be addressed are as follows:

    1. Does the person understand that a particular decision needs to be made?
    2. Does the person understand the options available in any decision?
    3. Does the person understand the consequences of each option?
    4. Is the person able to properly inform appropriate parties once the decision has been made?

    The inability to make sound decisions about where to live, where to work, how and when to seek medical care or other professional services, how to properly care for dependents, and how to purchase items like food and clothing is indication that a person may be in need of some guardianship services.”

    Emphasis mine.

  38. Astraea
    Astraea April 20, 2008 at 10:25 am |

    I can’t believe that people here (presumably including feminists) are seriously talking about whether or not a disabled person we really know nothing about, or some unspecified group of disabled women should have children as if it justifies FORCED STERILIZATION. Given the history and current abuses of women including forced sterilization, forced continuation of pregnancy, and general lack of any real reproductive freedom for many women in America and around the world, we should know better than to suggest that sterilization is something that should be forced on mentally disabled women.

    All of you who are so willing to say that certain mentally disabled women shouldn’t have children, do you think women who become mentally disabled after they’ve already had children should have those children taken away? Most of us would consider that cruel.

  39. Ashley
    Ashley April 20, 2008 at 10:56 am |

    Denelian, on the other end of the spectrum, I have a friend who was coerced into a tubal ligation at 18 because schizophrenia and other mental illnesses run in her family. She didn’t want kids, her aunt, who was her guardian, said she should do this, she said “eh, fine.”

    The fact that a doctor would do that to an 18 year old when I hear about people in your situation all the time blows my mind.

  40. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe April 20, 2008 at 12:05 pm |

    Seeing our atrocious history on forced sterilization in this country, I’d say that this ruling is oh, several decades overdue.

    Ain’t THAT the truth! Generally speaking, I’m glad to have been born and raised in Illinois. Despite our disgusting acceptance of political corruption, we’re still a fairly progressive, enlightened state. But stuff like this brings me up short. The government should not, repeat NOT NOT NOT, be in the business of deciding who gets to bear children.

  41. Kakalina
    Kakalina April 20, 2008 at 12:11 pm |

    For the record, I am partially deaf and epileptic. Neither condition in any way affects my ability to live and function as an independent and self-reliant person.

    I’d like to recommend the book Better for All the World. An excellent book that covers the history of the sterilization of disabled people from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. It gives you the impression that forced-sterilization is not on-going, but this should not deter someone from reading the book, which is extremely informative. I would also highly recommend Crying Hands, a book translated from German to English about the sterilization of Deaf people during World War II (I think the original title is something like Klägende Hände). Also has a chapter on the Euthanasia Program. You can find both books on Amazon.

    Some people seem to think that being mentally disabled means that you can’t function on the same level as a neurologically typical (NT) person. This is not always true—many mentally disabled people simple function in a different way from NT people. People with high functioning Autism for example, or others on the Autistic Spectrum, are more often than not perfectly able to think clearly and reasonably as anyone else. What makes them remarkable is their tendency to focus with astonishing intensity on a couple choice subjects that they are literally obsessed with (usually in a good way). These guys are PhD advisors’ dream students. Many of the world’s most famous geniuses (Bill Gates, Einstein, Mozart, Al Gore, Temple Grandin, etc.) are known or highly suspected to have some form of Autism. Yes, there are low-functioning Autistics who are almost incapable of any form of communication, but this does not diminish their right to have equal rights as a NT white male. This can be said of anybody. So what if someone can’t move or communicate in a typical fashion? Does this mean that they are only privy to the right to live, and are not legally allowed to make decisions concerning their own body? This is what the pro-choice movement is all about—“Keep your laws off my body”. I know that whenever I read articles concerning an argument to sterilize or euthanize people like me, I feel vulnerable; ashamed; angry; and hurt. The fact that someone is able to make me feel this way, and feels vindicated in doing so, is even more hurtful. It makes me want to scream. I am just as capable as anyone else to make reasonable decisions for my own good. I am able to look after myself, care for myself, and argue for my rights. That some puffed-up NT thinks that they should be allowed to make my decisions for me based on the fact that they can hear more than me and that their neurocircuits do not occasionally become overactive (something that has never happened to me since I was given medication to control my epilepsy) is a ridiculous and fallacious argument. To semi-quote a political cartoon published during the Gallaudet Protest of ’88, the ability to hear does not guarantee the ability to listen.

    Eugenics is supposedly about how genetically disabled people should not be allowed to have children. The truth of the matter is that a disabled person is not necessarily going to pass his/her disability on to their child, and that a nondisabled person is not necessarily going to give birth to a nondisabled person (neither of my parents are genetically disabled, yet they have a son with Asperger’s Disorder and a daughter who is believed to have been born Deaf—me). Most—about 95% of all deaf children are the only deaf child in their family. Only about 3 or 4% are part of completely or majority-wise deaf families. I have a cousin who is deaf, but she is deaf for completely different reasons than me. Back to Eugenics (sorry about that little detour). The fact is that people who have the same genetic background on both sides of the family are even more likely to have specific conditions common within that genetic pool. The more diverse your background, the less likely you are to develop conditions often found in those gene pools.

    I am glad that some people have pointed out how short a jump it is from not allowing a small percentage of people from giving birth to forced-sterilization and worse. I am reminded of a quote I read in I think The Third Reich: A Political History (maybe in Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe), in which a law maker was protesting the euthanasia legislature that Germany was considering around the time period of World War II. He argued that if they confirmed legislature euthanizing some specific conditions labeled disabling, then it would be too easy to go on to confirm legislation that condemned others—elderly people, people non-genetically crippled people, incurably injured soldiers, unmarried women over the age of 50, and basically anyone else who couldn’t beneficially contribute to German society—to the same kind of death. He was right. By the end of WWII, people who were considered non-beneficial to German society, for whatever reason, was being sent to Concentration camps. This is incomprehensively extreme, but it is also very easy to imagine how a society like ours, obsessed with the young and vital, could slowly but surely come to this kind of conclusion, this kind of philosophy of death. We already scorn the disabled, we are already so uncomfortable around those who are somehow different from us. We hide our elderly in nursing homes, we ignore concerns of the abuse of the elderly. We are uncomfortable and pitying of paraplegics. We have gone so far as to freely debate, with little input from disabled people like me, whether or not disabled people should be allowed to keep their ability to give birth to a child; regardless of the fact that this ability does not equate to the decision to have a child; regardless of the fact that in our Declaration of Independence, it is stated that all people are privy to equal rights and all people have equally unalienable rights. Yes, there are some hairsplitters who argue that some people are left out of this group, but let’s leave that set of arguments for another time and another thread. It will only draw attention away from the core points of discussion, which are reproductive rights for the disabled.

    Anyway, this shouldn’t even be a point of contention. The people arguing that disabled people should be sterilized are not disabled. They don’t realize the full magnitude of what they’re saying. There is no excuse for the minimization of other peoples’ rights. We have come to this realization about women and children (well, most countries have), but all around the world people continue to be deaf and blind about the rights of disabled people. Do you think we do not realize this? Do you think we are numb to the claims of such people as Peter Singer that we should not be allowed to live? Do you think that the sterilization of disabled people will prevent the birth of people who are not disabled? If you are, then you are the one who is disabled, not me. You are the one who is disconnected from the world around you.

    One last point: I would hope that my arguments have convinced people here that I am what I say I am—a disabled person who is genuinely capable of looking after myself. There are others on this thread who have claimed to be either disabled or the child of someone who is disabled, or the parent of someone who is disabled. Some have me convinced, some have not. The ones who have not are the ones who are insensitive enough to think that their arguments for our sterilization will not affect them. One person claims to be the child of a disabled adult, and claims not to be against sterilization, which I find strange because they are essentially arguing for their own non-existence.

  42. Kakalina
    Kakalina April 20, 2008 at 12:14 pm |

    Oops–I misremembered part of the name of one of the books I mentioned. It’s The Third Reich: A New History not A Political History. Sorry about that.

  43. Fenton
    Fenton April 20, 2008 at 12:20 pm |

    Personally, I think they can have as many babies as hey want or not, as long as they don’t turn to taxpayers for their support. I do think people at the lower end of society churn out more babies because they know someone will bail them out.

  44. exholt
    exholt April 20, 2008 at 12:54 pm |

    My point was that many people think that people think that those with disabilities as a whole do not deserve children. While I’m sure that there are some with disabilities who would be bad parents — having a disability doesn’t make you incapable of being a bad person –I absolutely disagree that some people have more rights than the rest of us by the very virtue of who they are.

    Cara,

    And I vehemently disagree with those people as having a disability is not a good benchmark upon which to determine whether one would make a good parent.

    We all probably know plenty of able-bodied economically secure/wealthy individuals who should never be allowed near children, much less become parents due to their inability to see children as anything more than ego-boosting accessories to their trendy lives or their tendency to emotionally and/or physically abuse their children. People like some co-workers I’ve had or in extreme cases…Joel Steinberg.

    If they are allowed to have children without much social disapproval and scorn, why shouldn’t that right be acknowledged and honored for disabled individuals….many of whom would probably be far more loving and caring parents?

  45. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 1:33 pm |

    I am sitting here just fucking amazed at some of you. Seriously?

    I think there is a difference between a disabled person, i.e. someone who may have some sort of limited function but can live a normal life and can care for herself, and a person who is unable to care for herself.

    Fucking seriously?

    What would you call the second woman? A waste of space?

    I use “woman” to emphasize something to you. That person? IS A PERSON. A full, whole person.

    I seriously can’t believe this. We automatically skip right over the disabled woman, her life and her rights, to start the “WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN??” cries. Good God.

    Look. A disability is a condition that prevents a person from full function in society. (That wording is even wrong. It’s not the condition that prevents; it is the society.) That can be anything from a lost limb to a mental illness. There are degrees of impairment, but they are ALL DISABILITIES. That is, whether what I require is simply “a crutch” or what I require is “a wheelchair, accessible housing, and around-the-clock caretakers” they are both disabled.

    You cannot separate out the undeserving from the deserving disabled, and the fact that many of you are trying to do so is simply outrageous. Check your privilege!

    The question here should not be, “Does this woman have a right to CONTROL HER OWN DAMN BODY.”

    The question should be, “What assistance will we give this woman?”

    Will we give her birth control and counseling?
    Will we give her birth services?
    Will we give her caretakers?

    Will we give her respect?

    Will we recognize that though she has to approach life differently, that life is still a LIFE, fully and wholly?

    Will we give her the benefit of defining her own life and her own ability, and let her negotiate with her medical professionals and assistants how to live that life?

    Will we give her the courtesy of addressing her as a PERSON, and not as a dog or a plant?

    Will we see that she can enjoy a sexual life, and parenthood; she just requires support in additional areas?

    Will we recognize that disabled is not the opposite of abled, and having a disability does not mean losing any and all ability, but simply that a person has to adjust how they approach their functioning?

    Will we recognize that whether a disabled person is able to mostly do what every normal person does, or whether they are very different in every way, they should still be afforded the same dignity, respect, and fuck, rights?

    I am ashamed that any of this needs to be said among people who ostensibly believe in, y’know, human rights.

  46. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 1:35 pm |

    It is nice to see what some of you determine worthiness of basic human rights by “Who inconveniences me more?” You might stop and think about that, at least for a few seconds.

    Then, I suppose, you can go about your lives, and never have to think about any of this again. Lucky you.

  47. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 1:46 pm |

    Further: there is NOT a difference between someone born disabled, and someone who was disabled later in life.

    Just like Barack Obama saying that half white or not, taxis still pass right by him — a disabled person is prevented from fully participating in society whether they’ve been disabled since birth or since age 74.

  48. Rob
    Rob April 20, 2008 at 1:52 pm |

    I must admit I haven’t read the court decision, nor am I a lawyer. But from reading the excerpt, it seems the decision was on very narrow grounds: the aunt did not prove that sterilization was in KEJ’s best interest. It did not rule that involuntary sterilization could not be in someone’s best interest.

    One of the judges stated ‘[t]ubal ligation is a particularly drastic means of preventing a mentally incompetent ward from becoming pregnant…There are “less intrusive and less psychologically harmful [birth-control] alternatives.” (From the article linked to in the post) That implies that they may approve of involuntary suppression of fertility if the mothod were not so drastic.

    Also, an advocate quoted in the article said a guardian who wants involuntary sterilization for his or ward will have to to deal with “significant legal hoops.” Before involuntary sterilization. The decision was not a ban.

    I don’t know how these cases turned out, but there is some modern precedent for not allowing people who may be very bad parents from having children. At least those who have already neglected children. Granted, the courts did not order sterlization: they would put the parents in prison.

  49. kidlacan
    kidlacan April 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm |

    this may be a detour, and i’m sorry if it is, but i’m puzzled: does the ruling mean that only permanent sterilisation is blocked? i’m wondering if the caretaker and/or doctor still can put KEJ on birth control — and whether doing so would be something they’re doing against her will. it’s hard to make out from the article.

    also, what rob said.

  50. Rob
    Rob April 20, 2008 at 2:11 pm |

    My comment might be awaiting moderation and I can’t manage to figure out how to edit it. I want to state clearly that I am not expressing any support or disagreement on any of these cases. But I don’t see much practical difference to life of a child from parents who refuse to provide proper care, and parents who are incapable of providing proper care. That is not to say that all disabled people are incapable, but drug addiction is a disability under federal law, and a court ruled that a couple with the disability of drug addiction could not have more children.

    Actually, I take that back: recovering drug addicts are a protected class.

    At least in some instances (refusal or inability to pay child support for existing children, and neglecting existing children) apellate courts have upheld decisions that interests of potential children do have some weight in determining what an individual may do with his or her reproductive life.

  51. kidlacan
    kidlacan April 20, 2008 at 2:12 pm |

    It is nice to see what some of you determine worthiness of basic human rights by “Who inconveniences me more?” You might stop and think about that, at least for a few seconds.

    that doesn’t seem quite fair. i certainly am not advocating for the indiscriminate forced sterilisation of the disabled, or any other group, but there are certainly instances where someone with some hardcore TBI or some other disability might not be able to make fully-reasoned decisions about self-care, including the choice to have a child. the court, in this case, seems to have ruled that KEJ is not in that position and can make her own reproductive choices, but would you advocate against putting this sort of decision in the hands of the court at all? generally speaking, people making decisions involving kids do consider how those decisions would affect those kids, and if the parent’s capacity to do that is limited, i can see the need for an outsider stepping in, potentially.

    it doesn’t seem quite right to flatly say that the only reason to favour outside involvement in this case is because someone’s being selfish and dismissive, in other words. it’s possible to have consideration both for the potential parent and the potential offspring, i think. it’s not necessarily as simple as “inconvenience”.

  52. graychick
    graychick April 20, 2008 at 2:18 pm |

    Let me say up front that I’m against forced sterilization. On the other hand, rights and responsibilities have to be weighed here. KEJ can get pregnant and have as many kids as she wants.

    Then what? She cannot operate a *stove*: how exactly can she raise children? Maybe in the land of fairytales and a sensible social support system she could with lots of help–but, here and now? That seems like KEJ can have her children but her aunt is the one who will be in fact if not in name adopting them as her own–against her will.

    After this ruling, I think the discussion between KEJ and her aunt will be along the lines of “Okay, you won’t be sterilized. But if you get pregnant, I can no longer care for you. You’ll have to go into state care. Your decision. What do you want to do?” That’s less restrictive but still might mean KEJ will be denied the children she wants. Would KEJ even be able to keep her kids with her if she went into state care? My limited knowledge of this sort of thing is about the elderly.

    Reality sucks. At most I’m thinking KEJ would get the experience of being pregnant but not that of being a parent. Is that what she wants?

  53. Daisy
    Daisy April 20, 2008 at 2:32 pm |

    Felagund:

    Who in the world is going to raise that child? Our tax dollars?

    You already support the rich with copious tax breaks and corporate welfare, why not support the poor and disabled also?

    Danakitty:

    It’s like giving a puppy to your friend, but your friend doesn’t have the time/patience/love/etc. to take care of it and pushes it off on her roommate, who grudgingly obliges because her roommate doesn’t want the puppy to be unhappy and starve to death. That’s not how children should be brought up!

    Quite honestly, why not? I mean, until the last generation or so that is how a lot of people in the working classes were raised, as it STILL is in many parts of the world. I think you are projecting your bourgeois values as the correct ones. In doing genealogy, my cousin found lots of kids in our family tree traded back and forth all across continents, particularly among the Irish. This was standard in very large families. It wasn’t considered a tragedy or any big deal.

    But when the same behavior is exhibited by a DISABLED person, ohhh, suddenly it’s suspect.

    *Another child of born-disabled mother, weighing in. Some of the comments in this thread make my blood pressure go way way way up (seeing as how they are saying I don’t deserve to be here), so I’m not commenting further, lest I start screaming incoherently and making a bad impression. (And then you might blame my disabled mother for raising me wrong!)

    Cara, major kudos for addressing the topic.

  54. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 2:37 pm |

    Disabled, born to a disabled single working class mother, with three disabled (and 20+ years older) siblings. Just, you know, for the record.

  55. carol h
    carol h April 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm |

    I am also against forced sterilization, but I suspect anyone reading this blog is very likely to be. I do not think this case is so straightforward, though, because on on the limited information it appears that this woman is not capable of taking care of a child without full time help. Right now her aunt provides full time help for her but is apparently unwilling or unable to care for children as well.

    Daisy says that in the past and in other parts of the world extended families can and do take care of children when birth parents cannot, but in our current society that is frequently not the case. Why is the aunt taking care of this woman in the first place, rather than her parents? We are not told in the article but to me it suggests a family that is not coming together to help the aunt. Perhaps there are no siblings, other aunts and uncles, or cousins that could help with a child.

    I am skeptical of the claim the aunt makes that “other methods” of birth control created adverse medical effects on the woman in the article. I am assuming that she means hormonal methods and they do have side effects but there are many methods out there. A good doctor who is willing to work with her should be able to find a method with manageble side effects. Perhaps it will not be an ideal situation but if the alternative is an unexpected pregnancey they could be tolerable. Perhaps the aunt exagerates the effects because she wants the sterilization to take place?

    I do not think any woman should have a child without a reasonable expectation that she will be able to properly care for it, either by herself or with assistance. If she cannot take care of a child herself and does not have the assistance she needs in place when the child is born she is not acting in a responsible way, disabled or non-disabled, it makes no difference. True, circumstances change and someone who is not capable when the child is born can become capable and capable people can become uncapable, but to deliberately bring a child into the world when you are not capable or do not have assitance in place is not moral, IMHO.

    For me it would be a greater tragedy for this woman to have a child, be unable to care or it properly, and have it taken away by the state than it would be for her not to have it in the first place. If she is capable of understanding what is truly involved in raising a child, which is much more than “watching it grow,” and is capable of helping put in place a plan that will allow the child to be properly cared for, I think that’s great. If not, well not so much. In an ideal world she would have all the resources she needed to raise a child she had but we do not live in an ideal world. I cannot advocate for her to have a child without a care plan in place. Good birth control for her would be my solution until it could be worked out.

  56. kidlacan
    kidlacan April 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm |

    carol h:

    i’m not a doctor, but i play one on the internets, and it is possible that there aren’t really any satisfactory birth control options available in this situation. her disability stems from a brain injury, and one very common result of TBI is a seizure disorder. lots of medications used to control seizures have the additional awesome side effect of making hormonal birth control not work. copper IUDs are an option when hormonal BC doesn’t work, but copper IUDs don’t work for everyone. that leaves barrier methods and FAM/rhythm, neither of which is a realistic option for someone who isn’t able to operate a stove.

    so it is possible that there aren’t any good birth control options at this time for KEJ.

  57. little light
    little light April 20, 2008 at 4:50 pm |

    amandaw, Jill, Cara, thank you.

    I am going back and forth on this, personally. When I first read it, I thought, “Well, she sounds like a perfect canidate for sterilization”. While I am not her doctor and don’t know her personally, I could certainly understand why someone who can’t take care of themself is not going to be a great parent. The article didn’t provide much information on her actual condition, but if she is mentally limited in some way- possible in this case- and unable to live by herself, it would seem almost cruel to the aunt who has already taken on a person who will apparently never be able to move out.

    WHAT?
    Only one person gets to think, “Hmm, this person might be a candidate for surgical sterilization.” THE PATIENT. You are talking about performing surgeries on a human being against her will. You’re talking about doctors and courts deciding whether or not a human woman should have surgeries against her will. And this is supposed to be a FEMINIST discussion? Are you kidding me?

    This isn’t just for the commenter I’m quoting–it’s for a goddamned STACK of you. Are you KIDDING me? You’re presuming any of us–or our institutions–has the right to force surgical procedures on people? Leave aside that it’s sterilization specifically for a moment. It is a medically unnecessary surgery, not about preserving her life or health, that she–a human being and a citizen–has made clear would be without her consent. And our primary concern is for the person trying to force it on her? Why, because she has “the mind of an adult”? A whole lot of horrific people–and decent people who make awful decisions, too–are able-bodied and neurotypical.
    This woman doesn’t have the mind of a child. She has the mind of a disabled adult woman. The idea of forcing surgery on her without her consent, surgery that’s not required to save her life, is completely and in all ways unacceptable. It doesn’t matter how “intelligent” or “developed” she is. SHE DOES NOT CONSENT.

    Are we going to argue next that the consent of disabled people isn’t required for sex, either? “Yes, she said no and I fucked her anyway, your Honor, but she has the mind of a child, see, and can’t make informed decisions. Please, arbitrate and decide whether or not I get to fuck her again. Yes, yes, I know she keeps shouting ‘no,’ but remember–mind of a child! Who are you going to believe, eh?”

    I know the fact that it’s surgery on sex organs is tripping a lot of folks up–“well, what kind of parent would she be?” and all that. This is not the question. Her ability to parent is not the question. The question is whether or not it is acceptable to surgically operate on people against their explicit denial of consent, and whether or not, furthermore, it’s acceptable to hand that decision over to a governing body. If you’re not worried? You should be. Please, hand over more authority to government professionals as to who is acceptable to consent or not consent to surgical procedures or, yes, to reproduce. See where it goes.

    Now me, I’m not disabled. I’m trans–that is, in order to resolve my status as a legal nonperson and regain the right to cross borders or engage in many transactions, let alone ever legally marry anyone, I am forced to provide proof that I’ve been sterilized. And people like me, historically, might have been considered disabled, as well, and had surgery forced on us, from lobotomy to clitoridectomy to implantation of “appropriate” gonad tissue. So this is my issue too. But that shouldn’t be the motivator. That motivator should be that you can look at this situation, on its own, even without noting that this could apply the next day to disabled people who’re maybe only injured, or have lost a limb, or have clinical depression, say–and then the next day to poor folks, people of color, queer folks, and other “undesirables.” Call that paranoia if you really want. Put it aside. Just this one case.

    Woman refuses to consent to surgery. We are debating whether or not it is okay for a court to decide, on someone else’s word, to force it on her.
    Pick your surgery, any surgery.

    Now try and justify it.
    Now check your goddamn privilege.

  58. ilyka
    ilyka April 20, 2008 at 5:08 pm |

    It doesn’t matter how “intelligent” or “developed” she is. SHE DOES NOT CONSENT.

    Oh thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for putting the focus back on the actual issue. Yes. THAT.

    I’m kind of shocked that pro-choice feminists don’t get that it’s not about the children. It’s not about the world “needing” or “not needing” more children. It’s about one’s right to choose — or NOT choose — to have a surgical procedure. It’s about bodily integrity and the right to decide for yourself when and whether and how you reproduce.

    Three cheers for this too. Pro-CHOICE does not equal pro-sterilization, except in the demented fantasies of wingnuts. Or so I thought, anyway.

  59. kidlacan
    kidlacan April 20, 2008 at 5:21 pm |

    i absolutely agree it’s about bodily integrity. i am trying to figure out, though, how consent of the aunt fits in here, i guess; if a caretaker is in this situation, does that caretaker have a right to consent to another ward? if a woman does not consent to sterilisation, there’s no way it should happen, but what does happen, in cases like these?

    i know there aren’t answers, but i am curious.

  60. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 5:28 pm |

    Her aunt should not be the only person in this equation. Don’t let your thought process stop there. Should not the disabled woman be provided with the support she needs? What do you think happens to disabled people without willing and/or able families, and/or family at all?

    I care about caretakers — trust me! I am not saying it’s the aunt’s obligation to take on more responsibility than she can handle. She shouldn’t be on the line for everything to do with her niece, ever — that isn’t fair, not to either of them.

    None of this means, however, that we are in our rights to demean and dehumanize a disabled woman because the situation makes us uncomfortable.

  61. kidlacan
    kidlacan April 20, 2008 at 5:29 pm |

    because i am kind of disturbed by this exchange:

    danakitty: It’s like giving a puppy to your friend, but your friend doesn’t have the time/patience/love/etc. to take care of it and pushes it off on her roommate, who grudgingly obliges because her roommate doesn’t want the puppy to be unhappy and starve to death. That’s not how children should be brought up!

    Daisy:Quite honestly, why not?

    that situation is just a recipe for Suck, for all three parties involved. situations like those are the situations where kids get abused. i am sure there must be reasonable ways to avoid such a situation that don’t require forcible sterilisation, and wondering about what those ways might be != advocating for sterilisation, just as trying to find better solutions for poor working families did NOT have to mean sterilising the poor.

  62. kidlacan
    kidlacan April 20, 2008 at 5:37 pm |

    amandaw: i’m not trying to make it all about the aunt, i’m just kind of puzzled that the thinking here seems to be sort of binary. support services in the US for the disabled suck balls, and i think it’s that very lack of support which probably led to the aunt trying to get KEJ sterilised in the first place. if the aunt felt like she could rely on getting adequate support for any child KEJ might have, i don’t think this suit would ever have happened. i just saw some people who were angry — understandably! — at sterilisation being forced on this woman, but i think there are reasons that go deeper than her aunt’s being a selfish ablist jerk. it’s great that KEJ won the court case, but i’m just kind of left wondering what happens next. it’s not discomfort. it’s just a deep lack of faith that the support any kids KEJ (or others in her situation) might have will not come through. so i can’t really be all “yay!” over the victory because i have that souring my mood.

  63. Forced Sterilization and The Right to Parent « cripchick’s weblog

    [...] Here are some sample comments: “…Who exactly IS supposed to raise a child born to a woman who is truly incapable of doi… [...]

  64. carol h
    carol h April 20, 2008 at 5:43 pm |

    Kidlican:

    I did some reading and you are right, many hormonal BC methods may not work as work as weell for KEJ. I had not thought about seizures and traumatic brian injury when I read the original post. I still think it is possible that if her neurogolist and gyn worked together they may be able to find a HBC/anit-seizure medication combo that would work for her. My daughter has epilepsy and takes lamictal and HBC. I’m glad to know that her medication is not lessening the effectiveness of her BC. There is no evidence that lamictal makes HBC less effective but she uses a condom because she is a college student and really, really, doesn’t want to get pregnant right now.

    Another issue with some anti-epileptic drugs is an increase in neural tubes defects in children born to women who are on them. For that reason docs recommend that every woman of child bearing age who uses these drugs should take extra folic acid. I had a hard time convincing my daughter she should take it when she was not sexually active. I made the argument that sometimes sex happens when you don’t expect it to and she she protect a potential child by taking a supplement that does no harm to her.

    I wonder if KEJ is taking folic acid if her problem with HBC is anti-seizure medication? Is she capable to doing what she needs to do to have a responsible pregnancy?

  65. felagund
    felagund April 20, 2008 at 5:48 pm |

    Felagund:
    Who in the world is going to raise that child? Our tax dollars?
    You already support the rich with copious tax breaks and corporate welfare, why not support the poor and disabled also?

    I don’t want to support any of them. Corporations that can’t make it on their own should fail. People who can’t take care of children shouldn’t have them. People who can’t operate a stove can’t take care of children. End of story.

    And this:

    In doing genealogy, my cousin found lots of kids in our family tree traded back and forth all across continents, particularly among the Irish. This was standard in very large families. It wasn’t considered a tragedy or any big deal.

    is one of the worst pieces of logic I’ve ever seen. You’re saying this is a good thing? That relatives were dragooned into taking care of children because their other relatives couldn’t? This is preposterous. And quite dangerous for the children involved.

  66. Vanessa
    Vanessa April 20, 2008 at 5:56 pm |

    Just to re-echo the sentiments of those who are appalled that people are thinking of the rights of everyone else, including a child that doesn’t even exist at this point, before the rights of the woman in question here.

    And personally, I kind of think the courts might better spend their time getting KEJ away from someone who thinks it’s okay to cut open and permanently alter her body against her will, but that’s just me.

  67. Jill
    Jill April 20, 2008 at 5:56 pm | *

    I don’t want to support any of them. Corporations that can’t make it on their own should fail. People who can’t take care of children shouldn’t have them. People who can’t operate a stove can’t take care of children. End of story.

    But you’re still missing the point: Should that justify sterilizing them against their will?

    And is there anywhere else where we subject a private citizen who has committed to no crime to a medically unnecessary, invasive surgical procedure against their will, just because we don’t think that they are capable of fulfilling some future role?

  68. Nick Kiddle
    Nick Kiddle April 20, 2008 at 6:07 pm |

    At a bench trial in 2005, K.E.J. testified that she hoped one day to have children. “I will love taking care of them,” she said. “I will love, you know, to see how they grow.”

    So, wait…this woman has actually expressed a preference and people still think there’s some kind of debate? Automatically opting for sterilization when someone can’t communicate their wishes is problematic enough, but this woman can say what she wants and it’s still not good enough?

  69. Dianne
    Dianne April 20, 2008 at 6:09 pm |

    so it is possible that there aren’t any good birth control options at this time for KEJ.

    I’m not completely convinced. Barrier protection might not be completely out of the question. A diaphragm is really quite simple to insert. And abstinence or methods of sexual release that do not risk pregnancy might be good options for her, depending on her situation and what she and her partner(s) want. Or maybe she doesn’t want birth control at all. It sounded like she was interested in having a child, at least in principle.

    Be that as it may, she is not a candidate for tubal ligation. A person who does not desire permanent sterility is not and never should be a candidate for tubal ligation, no matter how terrible her other birth control options are.

  70. La Lubu
    La Lubu April 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm |

    What Vanessa (and little light, and amandaw, and Daisy, and Nick Kiddle, and ilyka, and kakalina, and meeneecat, and rosehiptea, etc. etc.) said. For crying out loud, this is a real, bona-fide living woman here, who has clearly stated that she does not want to be surgically sterilized…..why all the fuss about a hypothetical child who will probably never exist?

    There is a reason the court ruled the way it did. There is a long, disgusting history of sterilizing women without their consent. Disabled women who are fully capable of caring for their own children have a gauntlet of bigotry to walk when they decide to have children. And it wasn’t that long ago that single women had their children wrested from them at birth “for their own good”.

  71. J.Goff
    J.Goff April 20, 2008 at 6:37 pm |

    s one of the worst pieces of logic I’ve ever seen. You’re saying this is a good thing? That relatives were dragooned into taking care of children because their other relatives couldn’t? This is preposterous. And quite dangerous for the children involved.

    Please, stop allowing your ass to type under your blogging name. It’s saying really asinine things.

  72. J.Goff
    J.Goff April 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm |

    And is there anywhere else where we subject a private citizen who has committed to no crime to a medically unnecessary, invasive surgical procedure against their will, just because we don’t think that they are capable of fulfilling some future role?

    It’s okay, Jill. To felagund, they aren’t real people like hir. Sie’s given previous ample evidence that sie believes wholeheartedly that disabled people are not real people.

  73. Deoridhe
    Deoridhe April 20, 2008 at 6:45 pm |

    And is there anywhere else where we subject a private citizen who has committed to no crime to a medically unnecessary, invasive surgical procedure against their will, just because we don’t think that they are capable of fulfilling some future role?

    Hel, are there any cases where we subject a private citizen who HAS committed a crime to invasive, unnecessary surguries?

    Honestly, I’m shocked that people who aren’t K.E.J., her doctors, and those people supporting her in living feel the right to even discuss what her options “should” be. She is a person as worthy of privacy as she is of bodily integrity.

  74. kidlacan
    kidlacan April 20, 2008 at 6:46 pm |

    Dianne:

    true enough. i don’t know a thing about KEJ’s particular situation, and i’m certainly not advocating for a tubal. just suggesting that the caretaker’s claim that other BC options weren’t feasible may not have been a malicious lie.

    carol h:

    weirdly, the HBC-drug interactions can reverse with lamictal, in that the hormones can make the AED less effective. go figure. (i was NOT informed by my neurologist about the HBC interaction when he started me on carbamazepine. luckily, i didn’t find out about it the hard way. PI sheets are a patient’s best friend.)

  75. Jill
    Jill April 20, 2008 at 6:50 pm | *

    Hel, are there any cases where we subject a private citizen who HAS committed a crime to invasive, unnecessary surguries?

    Unfortunately, yes — we still chemically castrate some sexual offenders. And there have been women convicted of child abuse who have been forced to go on long-term birth control or undergo sterilization. Both of those things are fucked up in their own right, but this involves a woman who isn’t technically being “punished.”

  76. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 6:57 pm |

    As far as birth control:

    Latex allergies,
    spermicidals allergies,
    reactions to hormonal methods,
    being too much of a risk for hormonal methods (they can actually endanger your health and your LIFE, you know — not just “oh, I got a little more acne”),
    being refused for an IUD (many doctors refuse to implant one when a woman has not had children)
    etc.

    There is no “safe” method of birth control.

    Not the pill or the patch, not IUDs, not condoms, not the female condom, not the sponge, not the diaphragm.

    And abstinence, when you evaluate it the same as any OTHER method of birth control, has awful pregnancy prevention rates. Because you have to count sexual activity the same as any other birth control failure — condom breakage, ovulation on the pill, etc.

  77. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 7:00 pm |

    Not to mention, being forced into using birth control when you don’t WANT to use birth control is as much a violation of autonomy as is forced sterilization. It’s not as permanent, no, but that doesn’t make it any better.

    People seem to latch onto that as though it’s a “solution” to the problem of “making sure this disabled woman can’t have children.” But that isn’t the probem. An ableist system is the problem.

  78. mobius
    mobius April 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm |

    I’m sitting here loudly applauding Little Light and several others.

    The rest of you scare the shit out of me. Worse, I don’t even think you mean to.

    The main problem is that you’re tripping over questions that have no weight in this discussion. Yes, social services and supports are sadly lacking. Yes, a child benefits most from a stable home. Yes, these are all idealogical pressing issues. Yes, a child might be difficult for this woman’s current support system.

    However, these are NOT THE ISSUE.

    We don’t sit and look at each of our friends before they reproduce, ponder and then conclude that “Hey Jennie’s kind of a narcissist, she wouldn’t make a good parent, let’s sterilize her!”

    No.

    Should the government have the right to force a person to have an elective surgery against their will? NO.

    Should any person have the right to infringe upon or negate the reproductive rights of another individual? NO.

    The answers really are that simple. The rest is a different discourse.

    By the way, for those early on in this thread who equated not being able to use a stove unassisted with not being able to raise a child. Head’s up from someone who regularly diagnosis disabilities and assists in determining ability to cosent – the term “disabled” covers an enormous range of possibilities. Most people with disablities are not even under conservatorship. They make their OWN decisions. People with traumatic head injuries can lose simple and/or more complex executive functioning (which is something one would hope to have in order to raise a child). Not being able to use the stove unassisted is not necessarily a sign of loss of executive functioning.

    Adults with mental handicaps are still ADULTS. They are not small children stuffed in larger bodies. They deserve as much autonomy as possible. They deserve every chance at independence, even when that independence occurs with support. Biologically, they are no different than any of us. Same desires, same hopes and same dreams.

    Same rights too, regardless of how some of you might feel.

    But none of that is essential to this discussion. All that matters is “elective surgery cannot be performed without consent.”

  79. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm |

    And I also find it interesting, as ONE commenter (iirc) noted,

    why are we assuming that she, as the mother, has the responsibility to parent her child?

    To be heteronormative and all: where is the father in this equation?
    If she is non-straight and has a partner who wishes to be a parent, what about them?
    What about other family members who may be willing to help?

    That’s talking about it all w/o even bringing caretakers into the mix. And we should damn well be providing for those caretakers with our oh-so-sacred taxpayer money if she cannot afford them herself.

    The fact of the matter is, this entire conversation rests on the assumption that the mother is THE one to take care of the child(ren), and any other arrangement is the exception.

    (That’s not the only assumption, of course…)

  80. Alison Hymes
    Alison Hymes April 20, 2008 at 7:11 pm |

    Feminists in favor of forced, strapped down, against her will, cutting open a woman for surgery she says she does not want? Eugenics raised as a serious concern? Your tax dollars? Okay, I’m sort of in shock here, help me out, am in a time warp? Are we back to 1910 and 1920’s? Because that worked out so well when Virgnia’s eugenics law was copied and brought to Germany.

    I can’t read any more of this. I’m really sad and sickened. We are sterilizing women with mental illness by the way, it’s called forced psychiatric drugging with drugs that cause menses to stop or PCOS to develop in the case of one drug, or hey, kidney failure which causes menses to stop. But whatever, it’s not like we’re really women like you because we’re not really people, right? Just useless eaters, put us in camps. You have paid a lot of taxes for my kidney failure by the way, sorry to put you out.

  81. MizDarwin
    MizDarwin April 20, 2008 at 7:11 pm |

    What are the laws about sex with the mentally disabled? Can they legally give consent? Entomologista asked this up in 15 but it doesn’t seem that anyone answered her.

  82. louise
    louise April 20, 2008 at 7:17 pm |

    An interesting debate close to my heart, as I am the mom of a 10 year old, lovely autistic daughter. Topics like this keep me up some nights… She is highly functioning, but for all of the progress that she has made since her diagnosis at age 3, we still are in a “wait and see” as to how much independence Jean will be capable of later in life. We strongly suspect she will always live with us and we’re gearing our future (I’m 42, husband 50) towards that.

    IMO, her safety and well being are my responsibility- as is her education regarding her changing body, its autonomy, and her rights as a person and her knowledge of same. /b> That said- I hope she does not have a child, as I doubt very much that she would be able to care for the baby, and after our deaths, I can see the “burden” / responsibility of care for both to become that of her sister, similar in KEJ’s case. That would be a disservice, if our older child chooses not to accept that, but had it foisted onto her as the nearest surviving relative.

    Because I do not want her to find herself in a situation for which she is completely incapable of handling, I have been researching how to give Jean the same valuable information about her body that I have her older 13 yr old sister. I would be glad if others would continue to share their findings as well… this is a very good site with helpful links/a>.

  83. louise
    louise April 20, 2008 at 7:19 pm |

    And… obviously I am exhausted- pardon bad typing!

  84. amandaw
    amandaw April 20, 2008 at 7:22 pm |

    Mentally disabled does not necessarily mean unable to consent. I consider my anxiety disabling when it is untreated (I am VERY fortunate that one medication blunts it well enough). As in, I was a complete hermit when it was untreated, and had trouble even leaving one spot in my home.

    And lookie. Here I am talking to (yelling at ;)) y’all.

    A person who is mentally disabled MAY be unable to consent. But I’m uncomfortable even saying that. Look up facilitated communication. Consider that if this didn’t exist, many pwd would be considered effectively braindead and unable to communicate anything, much less consent to anything. This is what is meant by a social model of disability.

    I do want to say, for kid and MizD, I don’t mean to be harsh to those who are approaching this agnostically and trying to understand. My comments are all directed outward, not at any one specific person. But, like any other issue of social justice: consider thy privilege. Thank you to those who are willing to do so.

  85. bastard.logic
    bastard.logic April 20, 2008 at 7:46 pm |

    Misplaced Empathy…

    by matttbastard
    Via Daisy:  Brand-spankin’ new Feministe contributer Cara  highlights a story that FRIDA has followed in detail, (h/t cripchick) all about “KEJ”, a disabled Illinois woman whose legal guardian was petitioning to have…

  86. Ursula L
    Ursula L April 20, 2008 at 8:10 pm |

    I spent many years working in group homes for developmentally disabled adults. The population I was working with had the most severe developmental disabilities (mental retardation, in the old lingo).

    One of the people I worked with, a woman in her thirties, had (somehow) gotten pregnant, several years before she came to live at the home where I was working. It was certainly a case of rape – her disability was quite severe, and she was nonverbal, and unable to communicate in any way that we knew about – talking, sign, pointing to pictures on a board, even facial expressions that showed emotion, such as a smile or a frown, etc. The lack of communication effectively made her consent – or lack of consent – to almost anything, an unknown factor.

    They never found out who raped her – she was in contact with a variety of men, both as caretakers and other disabled men at the place she was living. DNA testing would have required testing dozens of men – with inadiquite probible cause to get a warrent for testing any one man.

    From what I heard later, the pregnancy was a difficult thing for her. She didn’t know what was going on, and by the time the baby was developed enough for her to feel it kick, she was so distressed by the feeling she would punch her stomach to try to get it to stop. They made her a padded vest, to keep her from injuring herself.

    In her situation – unable to consent, unable to fight an attacker, unable to say “no”, unable to identify who hurt her, unable to consent to the use of birth control, unable to consent to an abortion – the people caring for her have to decide what to do on her behalf.

    “Keep her from being raped” is ideal – but in practice, complete isolation from all men is quite impractical, and would involve severe restrictions on her daily life, and anything less is inadequate protection.

    After the pregnancy, her parents signed consent for her to be given birth control pills. At the same home, several of the women (with equally severe mental disability) had tubal ligations, at the request of their parents and with court approval. Knowing what this woman went through, I would hate to have sterilization and birth control taken away as an option in their situation.

    Of course, these women weren’t in a position to understand pregnancy, or birth control, or to consent or not consent to the treatments. I wouldn’t want someone who was capable of not consenting to the sterilization or birth control being sterilized or given birth control against their will.

    But a blanket ban on sterilization and birth control for disabled women, unless they could explicitly consent to it, would leave women like these even more vulnerable.

  87. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 20, 2008 at 8:40 pm |

    I’m always hesitant to read comments on a feminist blog about disability issues, because all the rights that feminists fight for and have fought for get thrown out the window to make room for all the able-bodied privilege.

    There shouldn’t be any question at all – no one should be subjected to surgery against their will. Forced sterilization is eugenics, full stop, and has no place in modern society. I don’t care whether the reason is because the person suffered brain damage in an accident because these same arguments have been applied to people with cerebral palsy just as often as to people who do have congenital disabilities. The arguments are always the same, the goalposts are simply shifted to account for individual cases.

    The argument over a woman’s ability to care for her children is specious – the same argument has been used against women of color, against poor women, against women with mental disabilities that don’t allegedly leave them with the “mind of a child” (and how loaded with able-bodied ignorance is that phrase?). These same arguments were used to justify lobotomizing people in addition to sterilizing women. We either have bodily autonomy, and everyone gets a piece of that, or we do not – and feminism is a failure because it can’t handle the possibility that everyone should have that freedom.

    And lets be fair; tax dollars pay for a lot of kids. WIC programs, medical care, foster care, children’s protective services, public schooling. These aren’t always perfect, but they are available to able-bodied parents who need them for their children. Why does the possibility of a woman with a disability needing assistance provoke such resistance? Why is anyone proposing that a woman with a disability should not have access to services that are already in place just because she has a disability? That the tax dollars to pay for her child are somehow unconscionable, but the tax dollars that already pay for millions of children are not?

    Is it time for disability 101 again? What does it take to accept the radical notion that people with disabilities are human?

  88. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 20, 2008 at 8:46 pm |

    Oh, and apologies for glossing over the fact that a lot of people in this discussion are not okay with the attitude my first comment rails against.

  89. exholt
    exholt April 20, 2008 at 8:53 pm |

    People who can’t operate a stove can’t take care of children. End of story.

    I know plenty of otherwise able-bodied adults who would be disqualified from parenting if that disqualifier was actually implemented as public policy.

    In fact, that would actually disqualify quite a few upper/upper-middle class adults I knew at work and school who are so unfamiliar with the basic rudiments of using kitchen appliances. At best, this meant that they ate out/ordered take out for all of their meals….at worst…it meant that the few attempts at home cooking ended with the fire department being called to put out the fire in the apartment.

    Mind you, we’re not talking about disabled individuals….just abled adults with privileged backgrounds who never had the need or inclination to learn how to use the kitchen period.

    Unless we have more information….not being able to operate the stove is too vague……and if applied fairly…would ensnare a sizable swath of the American population….both disabled and abled.

  90. Miss Nomered
    Miss Nomered April 20, 2008 at 8:59 pm |

    Ugh. I just realized how awful I sounded in my first comment.

    She clearly seems able to consent to sex. And, although she may need help to raise a child, she could certainly be a parent with a bit of help.

    We should not be messing with her body against her will. Period.

  91. meeneecat
    meeneecat April 20, 2008 at 10:13 pm |

    drug addiction is a disability under federal law

    Rob, just for the record. Drug addiction used to be considered a disability under the law. But they changed that. I know because my partner works with drug addicts and they are working very hard to try and get drug addiction treated as any other mental illness especially because addiction definitely has the potential to debilitate a person. But I don’t want to get into the politics of all that here and derail the conversation. I just wanted to clear that up because is was an incorrect statement.

  92. felagund
    felagund April 20, 2008 at 10:14 pm |

    J. Goff:
    It’s okay, Jill. To felagund, they aren’t real people like hir. Sie’s given previous ample evidence that sie believes wholeheartedly that disabled people are not real people.

    I would ask you what specific ample evidence I have provided, but it would be pointless, as you are a jackass and your braying will be incomprehensible no matter what made-up pronouns you use.

    They’re real people. And have rights. And I don’t think she should be forcibly sterilized, as I stated explicitly in comment #8. But being a real person implies taking responsibility for yourself. It means understanding your limitations and the difference between a challenging task that will stretch you and one that you cannot handle. This is especially important when a helpless infant depends on your ability to perform that task. Being unable to operate a stove without supervision is a pretty clear indicator that maybe she should be encouraged to find another avenue for interacting with children than being a primary caregiver.

    Now, maybe she’s got a partner who can use a stove, or is able to take care of those things that she can’t. In which case, the aunt has serious issues. But the article doesn’t mention a partner. It doesn’t mention anyone other than the aunt. But it does say that not only can she not operate a stove, but that she cannot “perform most household chores”. This implies a pretty far-reaching disability, and while this neither erases her rights nor makes forced sterilization anything like an ethical option, it ought to make her reconsider whether having a child is really in her or its best interest.

  93. exholt
    exholt April 20, 2008 at 10:43 pm |

    It doesn’t mention anyone other than the aunt. But it does say that not only can she not operate a stove, but that she cannot “perform most household chores”.

    As I mentioned in my previous comment, that would exclude a wide swath of the American adult population including most college undergrads/grad students, corporate professionals, academics, and yes, even medical doctors (had 3 of them as roommates at one time and lived on a block populated by medical doctors/students).

    I don’t hear anyone calling for depriving them of their parental rights or for their forced sterilization…

  94. romham
    romham April 20, 2008 at 10:57 pm |

    as someone else on here did already, id also like to bring it back to the fact that THIS WOMAN DID NOT CONSENT TO THIS. she does not consent to have this done to her body. im not sure how much more clear that needs to be to sink in.
    damn, ableism is intense.

  95. MizDarwin
    MizDarwin April 20, 2008 at 11:00 pm |

    Oh, don’t be disingenuous. There’s a difference between “cannot” and “does/will not.” I think there are good enough reasons for not subjecting someone to surgery against their will without resorting to “but privileged upper-middle class people don’t cook for themselves!”

    If she’s able to understand and communicate her desires not to be sterilized, she shouldn’t be, but I do think it would be tragic if she had a child.

  96. Alison Hymes
    Alison Hymes April 20, 2008 at 11:16 pm |

    How do you know it would be tragic if she had a child? What if there was a father involved? What if the child was adopted by a childless couple who raised it? What if there are other family who could help in raising it. You should read F.R.I.D.A. on this story and cripchick, turns out her aunt/guardian is costing this woman 100,000 dollars of her trust to pay for her legal battle to take away her rights. Does that seem fair to you? Loving? Judge has to decide for sure who pays, but it could be the woman who didn’t want to be sterilized. There are no tragic births, just tragic attitudes.

  97. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 20, 2008 at 11:23 pm |

    If she’s able to understand and communicate her desires not to be sterilized, she shouldn’t be, but I do think it would be tragic if she had a child.

    Why? Would it be tragic if she had a child? Or would it be tragic if society’s notions about what’s appropriate for her to do made it impossible for her to ensure proper care for her child? Why is the onus placed firmly on her shoulders?

  98. annalouise
    annalouise April 20, 2008 at 11:29 pm |

    As a former caregiver, it’s always refreshing to hear people agitated to make sure caregivers have more support. I’m glad to know you all are working with SEIU, your elected officials and disability rights groups to make sure that people who care for those with disabilities are given all the resources and supports they need.

    or, is all this concern for caregivers just a smoke screen? Considering that the proposed solution is to perform unecessary, coerced surgery on a woman and take away her basic human right to control her reproduction, I’m thinking that it is.

  99. Jill
    Jill April 20, 2008 at 11:35 pm | *

    This implies a pretty far-reaching disability, and while this neither erases her rights nor makes forced sterilization anything like an ethical option, it ought to make her reconsider whether having a child is really in her or its best interest.

    Fine. But given that we know almost nothing about her, her disability and her personal situation, do you think that random commenters on the intertubes are the best people to be discussing “whether having a child is really in her or its best interest”? Do you think that’s an issue that needs to be addressed by a court of law?

    Because as far as I see it, we do have a right to publicly evaluate court decisions. We do have a right to say that certain things — like forcible sterilization — violate the most basic human rights principles, and that such acts are immoral, unethical and flat-out wrong. That we know. That we can evaluate. But I’m not sure it’s our place to them turn around and discuss what this particular woman should or should not do when it comes to having children. It doesn’t erase her rights, but it does erase her humanity.

  100. Trin
    Trin April 20, 2008 at 11:40 pm |

    Hoo boy, what a cesspool this is.

    To all the women in here who are saying “forced sterilization is horrible BUT,” I have only one question. Are you now, or have you every been, at risk for such sterilizations yourselves? How would you feel if you were? Would you get a lawyer and fight tooth and nail for your rights? If you would, your “well but well buts” mean nothing. Especially if you are or were at such a risk based on some group membership.

    But I’m willing to bet none of you have ever seriously had to contemplate the idea of the government taking away any reproductive right of yours but one: the right to abort. And funnily enough, “well but well but” isn’t what I hear out of feminists on that score.

    I really want to know why it is that reproductive rights for people with disabilities are fraught with ifs, ands, and buts, but reproductive rights for you are not.

    And I don’t see why those ifs, ands, and buts are so important that you’re going to force surgery on someone, because if not her poor aunt might suffer. If I could spare my aunt suffering through having an invasive medical procedure, should I? Is it right to compel me?

    Lastly, for now at least, I really think some of you ought to do a bit more research on the history of eugenics movements — including the eugenics movement here in the US. I’m not here to do your googling for you, but “Buck v. Bell” and “the eugenics archive” are two magic phrases you might type into that famous search bar we all know and love.

  101. Trin
    Trin April 20, 2008 at 11:58 pm |

    Addendum: Don’t assume that cognitively disabled people are too stupid to fight for their rights.

  102. romham
    romham April 20, 2008 at 11:58 pm |

    MizDarwin, are you honestly saying that you think that if someone is unable to consent, that means its full steam ahead to do whatever you want to their body? that seems so supremely fucked up, whether we’re talking about the forced sterlization of disabled folks or something else enirely.

  103. Danakitty
    Danakitty April 20, 2008 at 11:59 pm |

    Quite honestly, why not? I mean, until the last generation or so that is how a lot of people in the working classes were raised, as it STILL is in many parts of the world. I think you are projecting your bourgeois values as the correct ones. In doing genealogy, my cousin found lots of kids in our family tree traded back and forth all across continents, particularly among the Irish. This was standard in very large families. It wasn’t considered a tragedy or any big deal.

    But when the same behavior is exhibited by a DISABLED person, ohhh, suddenly it’s suspect.

    I wasn’t trying to say that she should be sterilized. I’m quite against that, actually. But I don’t think people, ANY people, should have children just because they *want* children, but are unable to care for it. Just like I don’t think it’s fair to get a puppy and then realize you can’t take care of a dog and give it away, I don’t think it’s fair to purposefully get pregnant, have a child, realize you can’t take care of it and then give it away. I know these circumstances happen, and I don’t want there to be a situation where a woman has her child taken away or has to give it away for any reason, but things happen.

    Like I said in my post, I would like to see an option explored where caretakers can be childcare workers as well, just to provide extra support for someone who needs it. And you know what, I think that option should be available for anyone — single parents, working parents, parents with disabilities of any kind. If family support isn’t available, then we have to make sure there is a support system.

    And no, I don’t mind my tax dollars going to pay for child care for people who need it.

    And … I realize I have privileged notions of these things and I’m really just trying to understand the whole situation and come up with a feasible solution. I’m sorry if I came across like I don’t care about reproductive rights for the disabled. I do. I would never never never try to take away someone’s right to have a child or not have a child. But having a child is a responsibility too. This isn’t just a celebration of one woman retaining her rights. It’s an opportunity for us to look at ways we can help more women with pregnancy, child care, and so forth so that no one has to raise a child alone.

  104. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 20, 2008 at 11:59 pm |

    We strongly suspect she will always live with us and we’re gearing our future (I’m 42, husband 50) towards that.

    Depending on what state you live in, you should check into what services and training programs will be available to your family as your daughter gets older. My cousin is developmentally disabled (she’s probably at the level of a smart 12-year-old, though I know some people hate that kind of construction) and after many years of education she’s able to live on her own with no problem. But Illinois did (and I believe still does) have pretty good public services for the disabled along with many private organizations like Lambs Farm.

    My perspective on these stories is always colored by the fact that my aunt and uncle had the attitude since day one that having my cousin sterilized was so horrible an idea that it wasn’t even up for discussion within the family, so it was a bit of a shock to find out that other people actually thought it was a good idea for people like my cousin to be subjected to surgery without their consent.

  105. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 21, 2008 at 12:09 am |

    “Keep her from being raped” is ideal – but in practice, complete isolation from all men is quite impractical, and would involve severe restrictions on her daily life, and anything less is inadequate protection.

    I have to admit, part of what squicks me out about the idea of letting disabled women be sterilized without their consent is that it seems to leave them fully open to being raped again with no consequences for the perpetrator(s) whatsoever.

    Also, in this group, how many parents requested that their disabled sons be sterilized as well? After all, it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the father of the child was one of the male patients, so wouldn’t it be better to protect the women of the group by sterilizing the men with a simple out-patient procedure than to subject the women to tubal ligation? Or did that idea not even come up?

  106. denelian
    denelian April 21, 2008 at 12:22 am |

    so… i know waaaaaay up above i threw in my two cents, explaining that that i am a disabled person who can’t seem to get anyone to sterilize me…

    why? i know that i actually have a fairly common problem, even if it is the exact opposite of the poor woman we are arguing about.

    i have a set of physical disabilities that, presuming they didn’t kill me, would make child-raising difficult (but adoption… the boyfriend and i talk about that a lot). but, except for the pain meds sometimes, my brain works, and therefor i should not be sterilized.

    is this an intellectual class issue? if this woman were as severly handicapped, but PHYSICALLY instead of MENTALLY, would this be an issue? would you nay-sayers and tax-payers care is she were physically handicapped? or is it literally that you think she will never be “mature” enough to have kids? (and let me tell you, i love my mom, but she often acts like a 5 year old and has NO impulse control…)

  107. Rob
    Rob April 21, 2008 at 12:25 am |

    Personally, I think they can have as many babies as hey want or not, as long as they don’t turn to taxpayers for their support. I do think people at the lower end of society churn out more babies because they know someone will bail them out.

    That’s a pretty disgusting and prejudiced thought. Are you sure you’re on the right blog?

    Cara,

    I did not say that. The way you quoted two people kinda implies I did. No harm done, I just wanted to be clear. Though that commenter is correct to the extent that people do change reproductive behavior as the costs (financial, opportunity, danger etc) change. We saw it when Roe greatly reduced the expense and danger of abortion. We saw it after Clinton’s welfare reform. We may even see men’s behavior change as child support laws are more strictly enforced. What those incentives should be and what behavior society wants to promote is another matter.

    I also thought I was clear about not supporting any of the cases listed. I will say that I feel it is an issue that is too complicated for one side to shout “RIGHTS!” and the the other to shout “RESPONSIBILITIES!”

    Meenecat,

    huh, in a quick googling I didn’t find that the ADA was amended to exclude recovering addicts. Not that I don’t believe you, just thought it would be easy to find.

    Daisy,

    Many things acceptably done to children a few hundred years ago would not meet societal standards today, whether or not a disabled person does it or not.

    The idea that people should have a child only when they want to and can raise a child is a pretty good norm: it reduces the number of children that no one wants to raise. I may be wrong, but do you have the same attitude towards men who father children with no intention of contributing to their support?

  108. J.Goff
    J.Goff April 21, 2008 at 12:55 am |

    OMFG, felagund. Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be more grotesque in your bullshit ableism, you literally pull out all the stops to prove just how much of a Nazi asshole you really are. Look up T4, you piece of shit.

  109. Trin
    Trin April 21, 2008 at 1:12 am |

    j. goff: yes, exactly, but that makes it sound like it was only the nazis. the sterilizations and such happened here in the US, too.

  110. mobius
    mobius April 21, 2008 at 2:51 am |

    MzD, plenty of people with mental handicaps actually DO have sex lives. Legally. Ability to consent is demonstrated on a case by case basis. “Disabled” is not a one size fits all category.

    For instance, even the diagnostic label of “Mild Mental Retardation” is misleading. Yes, there are handicaps in cognitive and adaptive functioning which are implied, but the range of Mild MR is broad. Some people with MMR are able to function very independently (say with weekly check-ins from counselors who stop by their homes or help with literacy) and others may require far more intensive structure and supervision in group home settings.

    There are also many typical children born to so-called disabled parents, where at least one parent has cognitive impairments or serious mental illness (i.e. schizophrenia). These children and their families are supported by the same supports offered to the parents. Most disabled children and adults I have met in my 17 years of work have been born to very typical and healthy parents.

    Unfortunately, sexual abuse of our most fragile populations continues to occur at unacceptable rates (really, any rate is unacceptable, is it not?). The case mentioned by the adult group home worker above, whose name I cannot recall (sorry) is not an isolated incident. It happens too often that those who have no voice and no means to fight back are abused.

    Sterilization isn’t going to change that. Appropriate and diligent supervision and better screening of staff *would* change that.

    If a person is able to make a clear choice – and therefore give or deny consent for a surgery, I don’t even see why the courts had any business even hearing the case. In those cases where the human being is unable to make a decision, I would hope (likely fruitlessly) that the court would stand against sterilization.

    The bottom line in this case is that this woman said NO.

    For the woman who can’t find a doctor willing to sterilize her, please get a second opinion. Get a third. Get a fourth. My medical team wanted me sterilized within months of my medical diagnosis, at age 30. I told them to fuck off…and off they fucked when I got pregnant. So I procured a new medical team. My daughter is 7 now :) But that route is certainly *not* for everyone and didn’t come without some significant long term payback. Adoption is a very honourable choice and am glad it is yours (I was turned down due to my medical condition).

    In either direction, there is only ONE answer. It is each woman’s given right to decide what is done to her body. No one has the right to tamper with that.

  111. A Pang
    A Pang April 21, 2008 at 6:56 am |

    It’s odious enough to hear people saying that women in lower socioeconomic classes, or disabled women, should not have children. But it’s just unbelievable how many presumably “feminist” commenters are saying that such women should undergo sterilization against their will so that they can’t have children.

    Jennifer, Rebecca, JenLovesPonies, Danakitty, Entomologista, kathygnome, Flamethorn, Fenton, graychick, carol h, felagund, etc. … do you call yourselves feminists?

  112. Ursula L
    Ursula L April 21, 2008 at 7:43 am |

    Also, in this group, how many parents requested that their disabled sons be sterilized as well? After all, it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the father of the child was one of the male patients, so wouldn’t it be better to protect the women of the group by sterilizing the men with a simple out-patient procedure than to subject the women to tubal ligation? Or did that idea not even come up?

    None of the parents, that I know of, asked for their sons to be sterilized. However, the experience, for a woman, of being pregnant without the ability to understand what is happening is considerably more traumatic than it would be for a male resident to be raped by a woman who then became pregnant. The fear of their daughters going through a pregnancy they couldn’t understand, not a eugenic fear of the disablity being passed on, was the motivating factor. (Many of the parents, however, had no more children after their disabled child was born. Not knowing what caused the disablity, they did not want to risk having more disabled children if the cause might be genetic. The population I worked with was mostly born 1930s-1960s, and I suspect that better understanding of the causes of disablity is changing this dynamic these days.)

    I don’t like the idea of a man who might rape one of these women getting away without consequences. However, in the one case I know of – because the woman became pregnant – whomever did it did get away without consequences, because she was unable (due to her disablities) to identify her attacker. The only “consequence” was to the woman, who had to bear the physical difficulties of pregnancy with no way to understand what was happening to her body.

    It’s a different class of disablity than the one in the original post. The homes I worked at cared for people with “severe” and “profound” mental retardation on the Wechsler scale. But this population is both smaller and less visable than the mild/moderate mental retardation, and often gets overlooked in this type of discussion, since they can’t speek for themselves in the same way as the more-able developmentally disabled.

  113. louise
    louise April 21, 2008 at 7:53 am |

    Thanks for link, mnemosyne…

    Another very important consideration (mentioned briefly above) was the matter of finances and trusts. With having “one disabled and one not” kids, we’ve had to look at alot of options for their futures, trying to come up with what’s fair for both.

    In our state, there is a mechanism where she can have more than $2000 in assets as part of a trust- otherwise, funding for her care is not allowed to be paid for by SSDI until the monies in her name would be under that very small threshold.

  114. Kat
    Kat April 21, 2008 at 8:34 am |

    My son is “disabled”. But really he just has a different skill set that his same age peers — there are some things he doesn’t do as well as them and there are other things he is phenomenally better at that than them. But so far, most people choose to ignore his strengths and hear “disabled” and just write him off as stupid, inconvenient, and burdensome. There is such a stigma to disability.

    As the mother of a child with a disability, I get that the overburdening of a caretaker is an issue (I worry every day that he may never leave home, may never be independent, and what will happen to him when I am gone.) But the answer is not to sterilize the person, it is to better support the care taker. And to better educate the person with the disability on other options and the reality of caring for a child.

    Who exactly would be the folks who determined who is “capable” and who is “incapable”?

    Between funding constraints, ignorance, and misconceptions, I can’t even get a decent IEP for my son because there is such an utter lack of understanding of his disability. To entrust “the system” with his education and be disappointed is one thing, but to leave them to determine his right to reproduce — scary.

  115. MizDarwin
    MizDarwin April 21, 2008 at 9:07 am |

    MizDarwin, are you honestly saying that you think that if someone is unable to consent, that means its full steam ahead to do whatever you want to their body? that seems so supremely fucked up, whether we’re talking about the forced sterlization of disabled folks or something else enirely.

    If the person under question is unable to consent, somebody has to make decisions about that person’s medical welfare, don’t they? (That clearly isn’t the case for K.E.J.)

  116. corey
    corey April 21, 2008 at 9:31 am |

    When you have a whole bunch of members of a marginalized and oppressed group and their allies calling out your privilege, that’s a sign. I hope that some of the folks who’ve been clinging to their able-bodied privilege will realize that and do a little research. Google disability rights. Read. Listen.

  117. Kakalina
    Kakalina April 21, 2008 at 10:50 am |

    A lot of people are generalizing to an extreme. Any kind of overgeneralization is inaccurate. Hasn’t anyone hear heard the statement often made by disability advocates that care for disabled people must be on a patient-to-patient basis? Laws that rule that “disabled” people should be sterilized are disgusting because they rule that disabled people are unable to take care of children. I’ve mentioned above that I am deaf. In what way does deafness hinder someone’s ability to parent? What about blindness or smoking (I’m beginning to think that smoking can be considered a minor disability)? How long will it take for people to understand that we are perfectly normal?

    How many people here who are in favor of forced sterilization realize that they are talking about other human beings? Or do they simply not consider us as human beings? If you don’t, run along to the neo-nazi club and have a beer with Singer and others with those kinds of archaic beliefs. We have no need of you here.

  118. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 21, 2008 at 11:47 am |

    I’m bothered by the characterization of even some women with disabilities as being “unable to understand their condition.” I mean, even if you accept something as dodgy as “the mind of a child,” even children understand the concept of pregnancy once it’s explained to them. Assisted and facilitated communication was practically invented when a nurse discovered that a girl who was labeled as being mentally an infant/toddler was actually quite intelligent and aware. I’m really skeptical of the claim that anyone who’s not comatose is in a condition of being completely incapable of understanding what her body’s going through. That argument was used in several discussions to justify supporting the involuntary sterilization of Katie Thorpe, that she would find menstruation frightening and strange, and it would be a kindness to subject her to invasive surgery, or that if she ended up in an institution, it would save her from a pregnancy if she were raped (because I guess abortion wouldn’t be available?).

    Never mind presenting her disability (cerebral palsy) as something that affects her cognitive function when it typically does not affect cognitive function – same with Ashley X in that regard.

    I don’t like this argument as reason to control women’s reproductive lives, because it seems like the determination is often made without trying to find out from the woman what her mental state is like.

  119. louise
    louise April 21, 2008 at 11:53 am |

    Kat, my heart goes out to you re:IEP difficulties- we’ve been so damned fortunate to have a great school system that has helped us tremendously. If you need to vent/talk/share ideas, let me know… say the word and I’ll come over to your blog and exchange emails.

    Our 10 yr old daughter is highly functioning autistic and the changes in her for her now 7 years of intensive therapies (behavioral, speech, OT, PT and more) is REMARKABLE. She is funny, charming, very caring and compassionate- and also very aware that while she is intelligent, that learning requires more work for her than others. Fortunately, her school works hard to create and maintain a supportive enviroment for all of the students.

    Raising her has gotten easier over the years. In fact, we sometimes have more behavioral issues with her 12 almost 13 year old sister! But we’ve learned how to find a balance…

  120. meeneecat
    meeneecat April 21, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  121. Fenton
    Fenton April 21, 2008 at 12:35 pm |

    Jennifer, Rebecca, JenLovesPonies, Danakitty, Entomologista, kathygnome, Flamethorn, Fenton, graychick, carol h, felagund, etc. … do you call yourselves feminists?

    I explicitly said she can have as many babies as she wants. How does that square with calling for her sterilization? Are my words coming out in Swahili or something for others.

  122. carol h
    carol h April 21, 2008 at 12:57 pm |

    It’s odious enough to hear people saying that women in lower socioeconomic classes, or disabled women, should not have children. But it’s just unbelievable how many presumably “feminist” commenters are saying that such women should undergo sterilization against their will so that they can’t have children.

    Jennifer, Rebecca, JenLovesPonies, Danakitty, Entomologista, kathygnome, Flamethorn, Fenton, graychick, carol h, felagund, etc. … do you call yourselves feminists?

    Please point me to a post where I said that KEJ should be sterilized against her will. I very clearly stated and I very strongly believe that she should not be. I also never said that poor women or women with disabilities should not have children, in fact I very clearly stated that KEJ should have a child if she wished provided that a plan was in place to allow proper care of the child. I also said that I was spectical of the aunt’s claim that HBC was not good for KEJ and that it is possible a BC option could be found for her. Do we now say that she shouldn’t even use BC, as if unplanned pregnancies are somehow good for women?

    If I had my wish she would be in a position to see her child grow and allow for her child to be cared for in a safe manner, but we do not live in a perfect world. If she is unable to care for a child safely and if her care giver is unwilling to care for one or more children in addition to KEJ what is to be done?

    Is it in her interest and does she want to run the risk of having a child that will be taken away by social services? Does she understand the risk and is she willing to take the chance?

    I am a parent by adoption and have always been conscious of the pain experienced by birth mothers unable to care for their children and have to give them to raise. I cannot see how that would be something that KEJ would want or desire if she can understand.

  123. Rachel
    Rachel April 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm |

    corey says:
    When you have a whole bunch of members of a marginalized and oppressed group and their allies calling out your privilege, that’s a sign. I hope that some of the folks who’ve been clinging to their able-bodied privilege will realize that and do a little research. Google disability rights. Read. Listen.

    I really, really hope the posters who are tromping around this thread saying that people with disabilities shouldn’t have kids, or should be sterilized, or “she can’t operate a stove, how can she parent?” will listen to what Corey is saying here. I second this emotion.

    And I will just repeat my comment from the Ashley X discussion on this site: Why is it so hard for y’all to listen to people with disabilities and check your ableist privilege? You do it with POC, you do it with queer/trans people, you do it on class issues – but when it comes to disability issues, you just block your ears and talk louder. What is that about? What can we learn from it?

  124. Daisy
    Daisy April 21, 2008 at 1:27 pm |

    Many things acceptably done to children a few hundred years ago would not meet societal standards today, whether or not a disabled person does it or not.

    Do you mean, like, in Zimbabwe, or here? (Sometimes, I wonder if people even turn on the fucking TRAVEL CHANNEL.) The whole world is not composed of rich people who can afford nannies and French lessons; in fact, believe it or not, even the USA isn’t. My Mexican neighbors have about 14 people living in their household, and the kids are never alone. One is disabled, the other kids help him. They’re very nice folks–the child is happy, friendly, going to school. I don’t speak Spanish so I’m not sure which of the adults he belongs to. (And that’s sorta my point.)

    That’s pretty standard in MOST OF THE WORLD and used to be standard in the USA. In the poor and working classes, IT STILL IS. I’m not talking about the fucking potato famine, I’m talking about right now.

    What is so wrong with letting an aunt raise you? (I wouldn’t mind raising my own grandchild, unfortunately she’s 1500 miles away.) I enjoyed having an extended family and learned a lot from them.

    I see very well on this thread the results of sheltered, bourgeois existence, and I don’t see anything I consider a strong selling point. I see a lot of ignorance, and people obsessing over USING STOVES. (PS: Most men over 50 don’t know how to use a stove either, maybe we should get rid of them, too?)

    Felagund, we remember well your disgusting comments about Ashley X, and how you consider disabled people inferior–in fact, you are pretty PROUD of your opinions, or you wouldn’t be here saying the same prejudiced, able-bodiest horse shit all over again. Yes, we get it: They are inferior and you are superior… same old same old. All prejudices are the same and basically boil down to this belief.

    We get it, eugenics rah rah rah–now could you just STOP?

  125. Danakitty
    Danakitty April 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm |

    It’s odious enough to hear people saying that women in lower socioeconomic classes, or disabled women, should not have children. But it’s just unbelievable how many presumably “feminist” commenters are saying that such women should undergo sterilization against their will so that they can’t have children.

    Jennifer, Rebecca, JenLovesPonies, Danakitty, Entomologista, kathygnome, Flamethorn, Fenton, graychick, carol h, felagund, etc. … do you call yourselves feminists?

    Thanks for actually reading my posts, where I said twice that I was against forced sterilization.

    This conversation isn’t even worth having because people like you are doing nothing more than making people angry. If you don’t have anything to contribute, don’t say anything. I know this is an emotional issue, but instead of shouting at other people over the internet, maybe you could try being patient and explaining the issue to those of us who don’t have your unique perspective.

    I happen to like coming to Feministe particularly BECAUSE I think the commenters are really courteous to each other, even when there are disagreements. But if this blog turns into just another hate-fest, then forget it. I’d rather get angry at the assholes on Jill Stanek’s blog than be angry at asshole feminists.

  126. Dianne
    Dianne April 21, 2008 at 2:17 pm |

    Re the issue of whether it would be tragic for KEJ to have a child: I think that if KEJ had a child it would probably be more work than she thinks. She would probably be a higher than average risk for social services taking custody away because of an inability to care for the child. If I were her friend or family member I would strongly urge her to think carefully and get her support people lined up in advance before getting pregnant. The thing is…I’m not her friend or a family member. I’m no one to her and no one asked my opinion. There are lots of people I think should think carefully before having a child, including a number of wealthy, married people who I suspect of wanting a doll that talks rather than an actual child who will cry, throw temper tantrums,throw up, etc. But I don’t go around telling random yuppies whether they should reproduce or not so why should I think I can/should tell KEJ that?

  127. Dianne
    Dianne April 21, 2008 at 2:32 pm |

    the sterilizations and such happened here in the US, too.

    Indeed they did, and long after the Nazis disappeared into history. When I was an intern, I saw a patient who had been not just sterilized but castrated by the state eugenics board in the late 1950s. (Coming across a note from a state eugenics board unexpectedly while reviewing a person’s medical history is, BTW, quite a surreal experience. Especially when one has only slept about 4 of the last 48 hours. Seriously paranoia inducing. I thought at first I was hallucinating…then I was sorry that I wasn’t.)

  128. carol h
    carol h April 21, 2008 at 2:37 pm |

    Jennifer, Rebecca, JenLovesPonies, Danakitty, Entomologista, kathygnome, Flamethorn, Fenton, graychick, carol h, felagund, etc. … do you call yourselves feminists?

    This is my second response to this post because it really bothers me. I clearly said that I was against forced sterilzation and I also said that KEJ should have children if she wants them as long as she has a plan so they can be properly cared for.

    Since when is wanting woman to use their reproductive capacity in a responsible way anti-feminist? The whole abortion/birth control/reproductive freedom is about woman having sex when and if they want to and only bringing a child into the world when it is desired, wanted, and able to be cared for.

    By cared for I do not be an upper middle class suburb lifestyle, I mean an environment where it can be feed, cleaned, kept warm, kept safe and loved. If KEJ is truly unable (not unwilling, like men over 50) to use a stove in a safe manner, any child she has cannot be left alone with her, ever. If she wants to have a child it is her responsibility to make sure she can provide care and any help she needs is in place before the child is born.

    I don’t think any woman, able or disabled, has the right to bring a child into the world that she cannot care for. Control of my reporductive life has been a key part of my feminism and I think it would be the same for all feminists.

    Please note: I am NOT saying that KEJ should not have children, just that all woman need to know how the child will be cared for. She as the same obligation as every other woman who wants to bring a child into the world.

  129. amandaw
    amandaw April 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm |

    I don’t think any woman, able or disabled, has the right to bring a child into the world that she cannot care for.

    Funny how that works. See, pregnancy isn’t something that you choose. It HAPPENS to you. It has HAPPENED to women throughout history, whether they wanted it or not, or even knew about it or not.

    I think every woman has a right to control her own fucking body. Saying “No one has a right to bring a child into this world [insert qualification]” means, effectively, “Any woman who does not pass my own personal worthiness test must be forcefully sterilized and/or forced into abortion.”

    I don’t know who you think you are, but *I* don’t think you should have that power.

    Let me make sure something is clear, here. I think that if a person is going to be a parent, they have a responsibility to treat that child with love and respect, and to do the best job they can do to provide for that child. This, however, is not the same thing as “I don’t think any woman…has the right to bring a child into the world that she cannot care for.”

    (I feel this issue tenderly: I was verbally and emotionally abused as a child by my entire family, such that I ended up with aforementioned anxiety and plenty of other scars I am still dealing with. My entire immediate family is also, as I specified, disabled. Mentally and physically ill, all of them. This makes things complicated. This does not mean that I had no right to exist.)

  130. exholt
    exholt April 21, 2008 at 2:49 pm |

    Oh, don’t be disingenuous. There’s a difference between “cannot” and “does/will not.” I think there are good enough reasons for not subjecting someone to surgery against their will without resorting to “but privileged upper-middle class people don’t cook for themselves!”

    Agreed. Unfortunately, quite a few commenters are obsessed with this absurd line of argument. More importantly, my comments were not merely about knowing how to cook for oneself…but how to use the kitchen without becoming a safety hazard to oneself or others on your apartment block.

    There is nothing like arriving home after a long day at the office only to find firetrucks parked outside, neighbors having to wait outside until the fire was put out, and heavy smoke hanging all over because some supposedly well-educated doctor/med students’ cooking attempts ended up setting their apartment on fire making them a serious fire hazard on our apartment block. Unfortunately, this happened several times until the landlord finally had the sense to get them evicted.

    I am fed up with the implication that only the disabled are capable of being a hazard to themselves and/or others in the kitchen when my experience indicates that able-bodied people are equally incompetent and in some cases, more dangerous because they think they are well-educated and “normal”.

  131. amandaw
    amandaw April 21, 2008 at 2:52 pm |

    Again. I am not trying to be harsh here. Hate to use religious memes on you, but it is fully applicable here:

    Those who have ears, let them hear.

    You may never have considered disability issues in depth before, or all of the branching issues that go along with it. You may never have reflected on able-bodied and/or able-minded privilege before.

    You won’t understand everything your first try. I don’t understand the half of it myself.

    If you’re willing to at least try, though, then you’ve got my thanks.
    If you’re going to go into defensive mode, I have no hope for you.

    But the only person who’s really been a full-out repeated asshole in this thread is felagund. I’m not really upset with anybody I respond to, personally. I’m responding to ideas that you may not have thought deeply through. I hope you take the time to think through them now.

  132. Rob
    Rob April 21, 2008 at 3:07 pm |

    Daisy,

    I meant here, US laws and courts and no relevence to Zimbabweans living in Zimbabwe. On the other hand, Zimbabwe is fairly poor, we might not want to imitate their practices.

    When you said you discovered that people in your family had fostered out children while researching you geneology, I naturally assumed you meant in the past.

    You never answered the question: do you think men who do not pay child support should go to prison? If you do, you believe there is a legal obligation for at least some people to support their children. As men in prison have greatly reduced opportunities for (heterosexual) sex, putting people in prison is effectively restricting their reproductive freedom. Do you support it?

  133. amandaw
    amandaw April 21, 2008 at 3:29 pm |

    … yes, the reason prison is bad is because you don’t get to have sex with women.

    Whoo boy.

  134. Rob
    Rob April 21, 2008 at 3:52 pm |

    Prison is bad for many reasons. It has the effect of preventing prisoners from having many children. Whether that is good or bad for people who aren’t in prison is more a matter of personal opinion.

    My points were: the government restricts the reproductive behavior of some people for failing to support their children. Some people are required to support children when they have them. Child neglect is a crime, so one does have an obligation to provide some level of care to one’s children.

    The obvious difference is that KEJ has not had children, so could not have failed to provide proper care. But arguendo she does have a child, and does not provide the level of care that CPS requires, she can lose the child to state custody, and possibly go prison. That is not in her best interest.

  135. Astraea
    Astraea April 21, 2008 at 3:52 pm |

    As men in prison have greatly reduced opportunities for (heterosexual) sex, putting people in prison is effectively restricting their reproductive freedom.

    Wow. Seriously?

    Reproductive freedom is not about having access to sexual partners. Suggesting that putting people in prison is a form of restricting reproductive freedom is incredibly insulting in the context of the reproductive justice movement and the history of how women’s reproductive freedom has been restricted throughout history.

  136. Daisy
    Daisy April 21, 2008 at 3:56 pm |

    Amanda, tee hee! My thoughts exactly!

    do you think men who do not pay child support should go to prison?

    Rob, I’m not an absolutist… I’d have to hear the case for and against each man on an individual basis. How much money does he have? My ex was poor and I would not have wanted him to go to jail, for instance, for a variety of reasons. Some of his life-circumstances were not directly his fault.

    What does jailing men for non-support have to do with what we are discussing here?

  137. Jill
    Jill April 21, 2008 at 4:06 pm | *

    As men in prison have greatly reduced opportunities for (heterosexual) sex, putting people in prison is effectively restricting their reproductive freedom. Do you support it?

    Uh, no. Reproductive freedom is about rights that begin and end with your own body; it does not involve the “right” to access to sexual partners.

    Try again.

  138. Rob
    Rob April 21, 2008 at 4:06 pm |

    Astraea,

    Reproductive freedom is not entirely about access to a partner, but if one is not allowed to have sex by the government, one’s reproductive freedom is violated. How could it be otherwise?

    If the court had ruled KEJ could not be involuntarily sterilized to prevent pregnancy, but could be involuntarily confined to prevent pregnancy, wouldn’t that be a violation of her reproductive rights?

  139. amandaw
    amandaw April 21, 2008 at 4:12 pm |

    Boy-o, you’ve got to really be reaching to turn this mess of a discussion into “What about teh menz?” Hell, it’s almost preferable. At least that‘s easily identifiable as bullshit to pretty much everyone here.

  140. carol h
    carol h April 21, 2008 at 4:13 pm |

    Funny how that works. See, pregnancy isn’t something that you choose. It HAPPENS to you. It has HAPPENED to women throughout history, whether they wanted it or not, or even knew about it or not.

    I think every woman has a right to control her own fucking body. Saying “No one has a right to bring a child into this world [insert qualification]” means, effectively, “Any woman who does not pass my own personal worthiness test must be forcefully sterilized and/or forced into abortion.”

    Pregnancy does sometimes just happen and I am well aware of that fact. I posted above that strongly encouraged by then only occasionaly sexaully active daughter to take extra folic acid while on anti-seizure medication for that very reason. I told her that she had a responsibility not to increase the chances of a fetus having a neural tube defect just because she wasn’t planning on having sex.

    However, I taught both my children, male and female, that if you are not prepared to take care of a child you should not be having vaginal intercourse. All BC has a failure rate and when you have sex you have to accept the possiblity that a pregnancy could result. I taught them that you should decide ahead of time what would happen if a pregnacy happened, would you want an abortion or would you want you partner to have an abortion? Would you have the child and make an adoption plan or would you agree to the plan if your partner made one? Would you keep the child if a female or raise the child as a primary parent if a male? Would you move in with or marry your partner and raise the child together? If you plan on raising the child do you have resources that will allow you to provide food, clothing, shelter, and safety to the child? Note: In the case of KEJ she does not need to have the resources to provide herself, just that she has access to them. If you have not thought about those issues you shouldn’t have vaginal intercourse, IMHO. There are plenty of other ways to have sexaul satisfaction with running the risk of pregnancy if you are not prepared to deal with the consequences.


    “No one has a right to bring a child into this world [insert qualification]” means, effectively, “Any woman who does not pass my own personal worthiness test must be forcefully sterilized and/or forced into abortion.”

    I did not say this, and do not believe this. I am sorry if you interpret my words this way.

  141. Jill
    Jill April 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm | *

    Reproductive freedom is not entirely about access to a partner, but if one is not allowed to have sex by the government, one’s reproductive freedom is violated. How could it be otherwise?

    But the government isn’t disallowing you from having sex. That isn’t a condition of the sentence — it’s an outcome of the government’s legitimate exercise of its right to deprive you of liberty when you break the social contract. One is still allowed to have sex; it’s just that one is not able to have sex because they have been deprived of the liberty that previous enabled them access to partners. That is not the same thing as an infringement on reproductive freedom.

    And, BTW, conjugal visits are often allowed for prisoners, so the idea that the government purposely takes steps to limit prisoners’ sexual rights is ridiculous.

  142. Dianne
    Dianne April 21, 2008 at 4:30 pm |

    If the court had ruled KEJ could not be involuntarily sterilized to prevent pregnancy, but could be involuntarily confined to prevent pregnancy, wouldn’t that be a violation of her reproductive rights?

    Given that it is illegal and unconstitutional to involuntarily confine someone who has not been convicted of a crime, it would be a violation of her human rights.

  143. Jill
    Jill April 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm | *

    If the court had ruled KEJ could not be involuntarily sterilized to prevent pregnancy, but could be involuntarily confined to prevent pregnancy, wouldn’t that be a violation of her reproductive rights?

    What Dianne said — that’s an issue of human rights, and her right to liberty and free movement. And while we unfortunately do sometimes confine people who have not been convicted of any crime, there usually has to be some sort of rational reason to confine them. Preventing pregnancy would not pass any rational basis test that I can think of.

  144. Rob
    Rob April 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm |

    So Jill,

    You do think that confining KEJ to avoid the possibility of her having sex would be totally ok? Or at least not a violation her reproductive rights. It would be a violation of other rights, but not her reproductive rights?

    What does jailing men for non-support have to do with what we are discussing here?

    It goes to people having a responsibility to support their children. It is in general tangential, the point was that people are obligated to care for their children. An obligation that Daisy thinks should not exist. I merely asked if the lack of obligation she wants should apply to everyone. Again, it was tangential, as few other commenters felt that there is no obligation.

    I do apologize for any resulting derailment.

  145. Jill
    Jill April 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm | *

    You do think that confining KEJ to avoid the possibility of her having sex would be totally ok? Or at least not a violation her reproductive rights. It would be a violation of other rights, but not her reproductive rights?

    Um, no, it wouldn’t be ok at all. Are you reading what I’m writing?

    It would be a violation of her human rights and her reproductive rights — but not just because she’s confined. It would be a violation of her reproductive rights because the explicit purpose of confining her is to prevent her from becoming pregnant. It’s first and foremost a violation of her human rights, because humans have rights to liberty and movement unless they break the law.

  146. Rob
    Rob April 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm |

    Jill, I didn’t read it: I was typing when you replied. Of course it is not legal to imprison someone who has not committed a crime. That’s why I said it would violate human rights, but not violate her reproductive rights, because:

    Reproductive freedom… does not involve the “right” to access to sexual partners. Try again

    But then you said that confining someone could violate reproductive rights. It seems reproductive rights sometimes do extend beyond one’s body.

    It would be a violation of her reproductive rights because the explicit purpose of confining her is to prevent her from becoming pregnant.

    I didn’t say prevent her from becoming pregnant, just prevent her from access to sex partners. Access to sex partners is not a violation of reproductive rights.
    Is it only the intent of an action determines whether it violates reproductive rights?

  147. bastard.logic
    bastard.logic April 21, 2008 at 10:40 pm |

    Guest Post: “Privilege limits imagination”…

    by Kay OlsonWith everything that has happened recently in the feminist blogworld (Seal Press, discussions of intellectual appropriation, BFP quitting her blog), and Angry Black Woman’s proposal for a Carnival of Allies, I’ve been thinking a lot on …

  148. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea April 22, 2008 at 12:54 am |

    Let me make sure something is clear, here. I think that if a person is going to be a parent, they have a responsibility to treat that child with love and respect, and to do the best job they can do to provide for that child. This, however, is not the same thing as “I don’t think any woman…has the right to bring a child into the world that she cannot care for.”

    Thank you.

    There is this… I hesitate to call it priveleged, but I don’t know what else to call it… attitude I see among feminists that every child should be carefully planned and have a secure detailed future and that’s what it’s all about.

    That’s not how it works for everyone in the world and it never has been. It sounds wrong to some people but it’s still true. And reproductive freedom doesn’t include demanding other people plan their families.

    I’m probably not expressing myself well and I’m sounding like I don’t care if people are responsible for their children or not when of course I do. But this atttitude still sets me off in feminist circles.

    And somehow it’s almost always disabled (or possibly poor) women who get asked the questions of what their plan is for their child, like they need permision to reproduce.

  149. exholt
    exholt April 22, 2008 at 2:15 am |

    There is this… I hesitate to call it priveleged, but I don’t know what else to call it… attitude I see among feminists that every child should be carefully planned and have a secure detailed future and that’s what it’s all about.

    That’s not how it works for everyone in the world and it never has been.

    This attitude is very common…especially among the upper/upper-middle class and some immigrant parents who hope their American born children could compete on better terms than they had when they arrived in the US. Too often, however, life tends to upset the most carefully laid plans by parents or the individuals concerned. While some planning is critical, the plans created and implemented need some flexibility to allow for unforeseen circumstances/opportunities.

    Careful planning of every child’s life….especially the micromanaged long-term ones* is a sign of great socio-economic privilege…..and the lack of such should never be used as a benchmark to deny others the right to reproductive freedom.

    I will also second the last quoted sentence as most of the world’s populace do not live in conditions stable enough economically or socially to be able to do more than to struggle day by day to survive or if lucky, plan more than a day or two ahead….including many in the states.

  150. exholt
    exholt April 22, 2008 at 2:22 am |

    * IME and from discussion with many friends in the educational profession, it is a great question whether such micromanged long-term planning of a child’s future is of any benefit….and worse, may be counterproductive in allowing the child to develop into a mature flexible-thinking independent adult who pursues goals for his/her own reasons, not to fulfill the desires of parents/older relatives who insist on vicariously living through their children’s lives.

  151. Lauredhel
    Lauredhel April 22, 2008 at 7:28 am |

    This conversation isn’t even worth having because people like you are doing nothing more than making people angry. If you don’t have anything to contribute, don’t say anything. I know this is an emotional issue, but instead of shouting at other people over the internet, maybe you could try being patient and explaining the issue to those of us who don’t have your unique perspective.

    It’s all same shit, different privilege. Telling people with disabilities to shut up because they’re not putting all their efforts into gently educating you on demand? You’ve got to be kidding.

    Gimp Parade
    Ballastexistenz
    Diary of a Goldfish
    Wheelchair Dancer
    Journeying/Journalling
    Three Rivers Fog
    Cripchick
    Crip Chronicles
    dot_gimp_snark

    And their blogrolls. Go educate yourself. Check your privilege at the door.

  152. Ursula L
    Ursula L April 22, 2008 at 8:41 am |

    I’m bothered by the characterization of even some women with disabilities as being “unable to understand their condition.” I mean, even if you accept something as dodgy as “the mind of a child,” even children understand the concept of pregnancy once it’s explained to them. Assisted and facilitated communication was practically invented when a nurse discovered that a girl who was labeled as being mentally an infant/toddler was actually quite intelligent and aware. I’m really skeptical of the claim that anyone who’s not comatose is in a condition of being completely incapable of understanding what her body’s going through. That argument was used in several discussions to justify supporting the involuntary sterilization of Katie Thorpe, that she would find menstruation frightening and strange, and it would be a kindness to subject her to invasive surgery, or that if she ended up in an institution, it would save her from a pregnancy if she were raped (because I guess abortion wouldn’t be available?).

    I’m assuming this is directed at me.

    At least in this situation, a wide variety of facilitated communication had been tried with the woman in question, and none of the types tried worked. Facilitated communication is a tricky thing – with some people, it works wonders, but in other cases, the facilitator is unconsciously controlling the communication, (shown tests where the facilitator doesn’t know the answer, such as showing a picture to the person communicating, but not the facilitator, and asking for a description), or answers given through facilitation were unclear or inconsistent enough that it seemed to be random grabbing or pointing, rather than communication with intent. Facilitated communication isn’t a blanket answer for these types of communication problems.

    As for abortion being available – if a woman is unable to clearly communicate whether or not she has consented to sex, or whether or not she wants to use birth control, or be sterilized, she’s not going to be able to communicate whether or not she wants an abortion. A decision will be made on her behalf, by someone, at some point.

    In the population I worked with determining what was done to your own body was a rather odd point. Medication for seizures, medication for heart conditions, surgery for appendicitis – all were decisions that had to be made by others on their behalf. Whether or not to put on a coat when leaving the house in the morning was a decision made by others. If someone else must be trusted to make these types of decisions on a person’s behalf, due to their disablity, the person is not suddenly going to develop understanding and judgement when it comes to reproductive issues.

  153. Astraea
    Astraea April 22, 2008 at 8:53 am |

    Seriously. As feminists we should be familiar with how privilege works, and demand of ourselves no less than we demand of men.

    Thanks for the links, Lauredhel.

  154. A Pang
    A Pang April 22, 2008 at 9:00 am |

    To the commenters I mentioned above: I didn’t name you because I thought you were all in favour of forced sterilization; I named you because of your somewhat patronising “but I’m so concerned” stance. This woman, if she decides to have children, will have put far more thought and effort into it than your average able-bodied person. Why assume she hasn’t considered all this? Why nitpick about whether there’s really no suitable method of birth control? Why read “can’t operate a stove” and think “oh jesus, she probably has to call the fire department every time she gets it into her head to make Kraft Dinner”? Why presume she doesn’t know her own limitations?

    If this had been an article on a woman who had won the right to have an abortion, would you all be jumping in and saying “she shouldn’t have had vaginal intercourse even if she was using 2 reliable birth control methods”, “someone should tell her about adoption!”, “I would like to see her budget to determine if she really can’t afford this child”, “how does she know she wouldn’t like being a mother” and so forth? No. You’d give her the damn benefit of the doubt, becaues she’s an adult who can think for herself. But KEJ, because she’s disabled, somehow doesn’t deserve that.

  155. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 22, 2008 at 2:18 pm |

    As for abortion being available – if a woman is unable to clearly communicate whether or not she has consented to sex, or whether or not she wants to use birth control, or be sterilized, she’s not going to be able to communicate whether or not she wants an abortion. A decision will be made on her behalf, by someone, at some point.

    And of course, it’s much better to make a permanent, invasive decision regarding her body? Sterilization is preferable to abortion?

    I’m not even talking in terms of fertility and whether a person would want to use it, but in terms of cutting a human being open and removing healthy, normal parts for what amounts to other people’s convenience.

  156. Feministe » Carnivals: Submit Now, Read Soon

    [...] think I’ve made it clear that I was disappointed with this thread on reproductive justice for disabled women. But I was also very impressed by the many who showed up [...]

  157. graychick
    graychick April 24, 2008 at 4:30 pm |

    A Pang,

    I do consider myself a feminist. I said *I’m against forced sterilization*. She can have as many kids as her body can handle. However, there is a place where personal choices intersect with the larger world that I would have enjoyed discussing. I’m sorry reality offends. Doubtless Gandalf will come and take care of her and her kids if her aunt finds herself too overwhelmed by KEJ’s decisions to continue taking care of her. Sunshine and kittens for all!

    In the world where I live, social services are *shit*. That is horrible and an indictment of our “rich” society. I was curious as to how this situation might play out in *this* flawed world with a lick and a promise social safety net because *I don’t know*.

    “Can’t operate a stove” makes me think of my mother, who has Alzheimer’s. Can’t operate a stove means lots of different things in my experience–cooking in plastic bowls on the stovetop, cooking cat food, pouring water into the eyes… Maybe for KEJ that just means she can’t physically turn the knobs or can’t remember where “high” is. I don’t know. Do you?

    Forgive my oh so “patronizing” ignorance, oh great arbiter of all things feminist.

  158. Think Girl » Court denies bid to sterilize mentally disabled woman

    [...] Feministe and CripChick have blogs about this [...]

  159. “Special Needs” « Feline Formal Shorts

    [...] had a similar sort of revelation last week. In the wake of the whole forced sterilization thing, I found myself commenting at Ms. Cripchick’s place about my grandmother. She had three [...]

  160. Catapulting to Conclusions « Andrea’s Buzzing About:

    [...] to support. [Bang head here.] More thoughtful discussions of this issue are to be found over at Feministing, although excursions into the Realm of Stoopid by some of the commenters are to be found there, [...]

  161. Mother's Day and Disabled Mothers' Fight for the Right to Bear Children - Disabled Politico

    [...] K. E. J. wants children someday. She says she will "love taking care of them." She is said to own a home and possess a substantial sum of money. K. E. J. is not apparently involved with a man or planning to become pregnant in the near future. [...]

  162. Physicians, Heal Thy Attitudes « Ideologically Impure

    [...] group into my mindset.  My single disability only requires really strong reading lenses, not legal intervention to stop someone forcibly sterilizing me.  When I get pregnant, I live in a country where I have access to the kind of medical care that [...]

  163. Max Criollo
    Max Criollo May 29, 2008 at 10:10 am |

    I think a history lesson is in order here: The word eugenics was coined by the British mathematician Sir Francis Galton in 1883, who defined it as the “science of improving the stock.” American social scientists began a eugenics movement in the United States in the 1890’s. This eventually led to passage of compulsory sterilization laws in most of the states, resulting in the forced sterilization of hundreds of thousands of people with mental illness and cognitive disability in the 1920’s and 30’s. Any legal constraints on this campaign were eliminated in 1927 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buck vs. Bell, which decided that forced sterilization did not violate the constitutional rights of people with disabilities. That decision has never been overturned. This American eugenics movement helped inspire the German Nazis to pass their own eugenics laws in the 1930’s, based on the Nazi notion of lebunsunswertes Leben, or “life unworthy of life.” This culminated in the extermination program dubbed T-4, which began in October 1939 with the “Fuhrer decree” granting physicians the authority to administer a “mercy death” to adults with disabilities. Over 30 psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions throughout Germany, Poland, and Austria were euphemistically designated as “euthanasia centers.” Psychiatrists and physicians at these killing centers, using poison gas and lethal injection, eventually killed as many as 250,000 Europeans with physical or mental disabilities. Following the end of World War II, the horror of the T-4 extermination program in Nazi Germany caused many eugenics proponents in the United States and Europe to backpedal on their promotion of euthanasia as a method of eliminating mental illness and congenital disabilities. However sterilization of people with disabilities continued to be a widespread practice well into the 1970’s.

  164. Judge Bars Woman From Having Children : The Curvature

    [...] and forcible birth control use, particularly for women of color, low-income women, women with disabilities, and women with criminal histories and/or drug addictions. Welfare has at time included conditions [...]

  165. sohbet chat
    sohbet chat September 28, 2008 at 5:44 pm |

    We all probably know plenty of able-bodied economically secure/wealthy individuals who should never be allowed near children, much less become parents due to their inability to see children as anything more than ego-boosting accessories to their trendy lives or their tendency to emotionally and/or physically abuse their children. People like some co-workers I’ve had or in extreme cases…Joel Steinberg.

    If they are allowed to have children without much social disapproval and scorn, why shouldn’t that right be acknowledged and honored for disabled individuals….many of whom would probably be far more loving and caring parents?

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