Forced Sterilisation: Where are the Feminists When Women Need Them?



American readers will know something about the mass sterilisation programs that took place in the States in the first half of the twentieth century. Today we have yet more evidence that society is 'regressing', rather than 'progressing'. We are, apparently, 'privileged' to receive this information in our media from the Court of Protection, who have deigned to allow an 'open hearing' of this case because of the importance it has for the public interest. Thank Heaven for small mercies...I think we deserve to know about this!

The Telegraph reports today...

The secretive Court of Protection will rule on the woman’s case on Tuesday, in a rare open hearing scheduled because of the overwhelming “public interest” in understanding the case. She is due to give birth by caesarean section on Wednesday and could undergo an operation to sterilise her at the same time, if the court agrees.
Disability campaigners described the prospect of such a “drastic” step as “quite wrong”. The woman will be represented by the official solicitor, a government lawyer who represents those who cannot instruct their own legal team because they lack capacity. The patient’s local NHS trust and council have made an application to the Court of Protection to decide whether she lacks the capacity to make decisions about contraception for herself - and if so, whether she should be sterilised by means of “tubal ligation”.
For full story click here...

Pray for the judge (I don't know if the Court of Protection actually has a 'jury'] and for the woman involved. Isn't it odd that such a decision, of such momentous importance to this woman and to women across the United Kingdom is left in the hands of a single, powerful Court or a single, seemingly all-powerful judge, rather than in the hands of those elected to serve the nation in making just laws that should protect the vulnerable? Will anything at all be raised about this horror in Parliament? Still, if you want to blame anyone, they gave the Court of Protection these powers. They must have known what was coming...

There has been, at least, some good news today in the same publication concerning the ruling from another Court, this time the High Court, where the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) lost its case asking for a liberalisation of the law, in order to allow the second dose of tablets for an early medical abortion (EMA) to be self-administered in the home.

For those not already throwing up their breakfasts, lunches or dinners from the previous post, you might want to read about 'tubal ligation'. Wikipedia tells us that...

'Tubal ligation or tubectomy (informally known as getting one's "tubes tied") is a form of female sterilization, in which the fallopian tubes are severed and sealed or "pinched shut", in order to prevent fertilization.'

It does, apparently, come with a bit of a risk.

'In industrialized nations mortality is 4 per 100,000 tubal ligations'. 

Outside odds, but you've far more chance of dying during this procedure than you have of winning the lottery. All in all, not a procedure one would necessarily choose and definitely not one anyone would wish to visit upon another person forcibly unless one were a wicked, Nazi, social worker. Perhaps this is one reason why some in the Government would really like to withdraw from the Human Rights Act. If she loses the case, I would imagine there are some good human rights lawyers out there willing to take her case to European Court of Human Rights. How much does Cherie Booth QC cost nowadays?

The question Tina Beattie might want to consider today is, 'Where are all the feminists when women really need them?' Come on Tina love, here's a chance to smash the patriarchy and stand up for women's rights!

Comments

jim said…
Why is it 'holy' to allow a womanwho can't legally look after a child to continue to have children? Surely it's unfair to consign her future progeny to the orphanage just to defend some arbitrary principle
What business is it for the State to deny a woman her 'reproductive rights'?
jim said…
That makes no sense what so ever. The state is clearly given a mandate to interferein the lives ofthose whose interests do not chime with the common good. You do not have the right to produce a child you can't look after. Generally(going on the article's description of this woman) she wouldn't be permitted to hold a driving license, and certainly wouldn't be permitted to work in a position of responsibility for minors. Surely then it stands to reason she should not be able to have a child. Her wanting a child is immaterial - she does not understand the gravity of the situation. Rights and duties are mutually necessary - if she cannot discharge her duty toward the child her rightto have a child vanishes. You've not thought this through, and you don't much care about her or her child. You wantto express frustration with the government because you are an angry unemployed man who can't direct his anger at appropriate targets. The state is in the right here
'That makes no sense what so ever. The state is clearly given a mandate to interfere in the lives of those whose interests do not chime with the common good.'

I see...and what about when the State decides you or your wife don't chime with the common good? Either or both of you might have low IQs after all.

'You do not have the right to produce a child you can't look after...etc'

Okay...how many children are brought up by parents who divorce, causing untold psychological trauma on their children. Let's sterilise them. They're clearly so selfish they are not capable of raising children. No?
"For the measure you mete out, the same shall be measured unto you."
jim said…
Sorry,all these hypotheticals don't change the score. Firstly, if my wife and I did have extremely low I.Q.s (let's say around 40), and were consequently unable to look after ourselves, required a social worker to negotiate the complexities of life etc, then I would say the state preventing us having children would be an eminently reasonable thing. This 'slippery slope' crap slides both ways - if you allow someone who cannot discharge their duties to possess rights then do you allow oysters to vote (as Russell said)? Do you allow psychotic murderers to look after children? Do you give the right to freedom to a wanton criminal whose duty to society is never met?

Sorry, but your wooly, limp-wristed liberal concessions to popular sentiment can play no pary in the commonwealth of citizens. Of course it might be 'nice' if everyone could do as they pleased, but then I suspect you might not like the ultimate consequences. What does the neighbour who discovers the starved child say? 'Oh well, at least Mrs X was permitted her right to have a baby. Hope she has better luck with the next one'
I don't know what your IQ is but you seem to lack empathy skills. Not really up to child-raising, are you? I mean, you need to be able to emote and have empathy for others. I think you should be sterilised.
Just a personal opinion mind, but then, it would probably be better for eugenicists if they had never been born.
We don't need another Hitler so you should be snipped just in case.
jim said…
"For the measure you mete out, the same shall be measured unto you."

I agree. So I 'mete out the measure' that rights can only be held by those capable of meeting a correspondng duty. And so it is measured back unto me, by the state. You have just described the political principle upon which this woman is being denied her rights. She cannot meet the measure of duty and so her rights are not meted back to her in such a measure. It's nice to come up with a slightly outdated old English translation of a biblical passage as a substitute for an argument, perhaps we should always talk like this in modern England.
Congratulations, you've found a biblical source explaining your error. Now go forth and mete out the measure you are met with in duty and obedience to the state
jim said…
so 'empathy' dictates you allow anyone to do as they please, even if it leads to negative consequences for others? Again, very nice for the liberal limp-wristed CofE 'trendy' headmaster who is sympathetic and empathetic with all and sundry because it won't affect him - not very nice for a government that has the hard task of imposing laws on the conduct of its people. Your argument is basically 'hey man, wouldn't it be great if we just let people get on with their lives, even if it, like, kills others'.
Oh, sorry, I forgot, to you, the State is actually God! Oh crumbs!

I guess there is little point in arguing with people who don't believe in a Divine Law because this is what happens when God is pushed out of the public sphere, just as Pope Benedict XVI warned when he was here.

Believe me, I am not arguing about this case because of a 'slippery slope' argument. The day that this happens to just ONE person, we have reached the end of the slope. All that is in question now is how many people this will happen to.

The fact of the matter is that no one, NOONE, has the right to take someone AGAINST THEIR WILL, into a hospital and snip their reproductive tubes. It is a mortal sin against man and against our Creator.

If I were this woman, I would ask, "I am here in Court. What, pray, is my crime?"

She is blameless, innocent and yet she is in the dock with, I suspect, no man to defend her! I don't know who you are Jim, but you sound like one cruel, arrogant man.
Of course, under Pol Pot's State, Hitler's State, Stalin's State, the Chinese State, your argument just gets stronger and stronger, doesn't it?
Sorry, Jim, I just realised, you don't have the 'right' to publish your heretical ramblings on my blog.
Cecilia said…
I rather suspect that this woman's intellectual disability may mean that she can't really understand the meaning and consequences (emotional and physical)of sexual relations - in which case we should be protecting her, not by sterilising her, but by making sure she is not sexually abused.
LD Clinical Psychologist said…
This woman's IQ means she has a mental age of around 5 years old; consequently she is unable to look after a child and any child she gives birth to will necessarilly have to be taken into care. We're not talking a little bit dim here but global sub-normal intelligence likely from difficulties at birth etc - the bottom 0.5% of the population. She will not be able to look after herself without ongoing support.
She will be represented in court by an independent advocate, this is the norm for all cases heard by the court of protection. The role of the advocate is to put forward her case. Obviously in this case, her wishes are not in agreement with the opinion of the multidisciplinary learning disability team. She will have been formally assessed by a clinical psychologist and consultant psychiatrist among others as not having the mental capacity to make these decisions herself. They would have sought a second opinion from a another psychiatrist/psychologist. The request for her to be steralised will likely have been made because of repeated attempts by her to get pregnant. The request will not have been made on the whim of a sole professional (or 'nazi social worker' as you unchristianly call them). It's an extremely rare situation, probably the first of it's kind which is why the case has gained such high media interest because it will create a legal precedent.
It is the judge's role to determine the evidence and make a decision about what is in this woman's best interest. The court of protection is a necessary legal safeguard against such fundamental decisions being made on the 'whim' of an individual. I think it's highly unlikely that the judge will agree to the steralisation request - it's more likely that some kind of contraceptive implant is imposed. An implant because she is likely to have not taken oral contraceptives in the past. Given the gravitity of the case it's highly likely that's she's already been pregnant on a number of occasions. It may be that's they've already tried a contraceptive implant already but she's tried to cut it out etc which is why this isn't a practical or safe option anymore - we don't know all the details yet.
I pray for the judge and those professionals involved, they didn't ask for this heavy moral burden, and it is not easy to know what is the right right thing to do - that is the nature of moral complexities.

Incidentally the church is not against contraception in these kind of rare cases - the church's position (unlike yours) is not absolute. It's akin to the vatican allowing nuns to take contraception where they are in danger of being raped.
The difference is the nuns were not forced.
second opinion said…
But look (you idiot) - the idea of being 'forced' is only theologically compelling if we are speaking of free will being violated. But a seriously mentally subnormal person (with the mental age of a 5 year old) is not regarded by the Church herself as having such a power of self determination. Since circa the C19 the Church has refused 'normal' communion to people with such mental deficiency on the grounds that they cannot *freely choose* their path. They entrust these people to the grace of God, but that is not to say that they do not think a seriously mentally damaged person is a 'social construct' - they are an objective medical fact. You bury your head in the sand trying to dodge the issue because the sin of pride prevents you from admitting an error of judgement
LD clinical psychologist said…
Cecilia - ''I rather suspect that this woman's intellectual disability may mean that she can't really understand the meaning and consequences (emotional and physical)of sexual relations - in which case we should be protecting her, not by sterilising her, but by making sure she is not sexually abused.''

Perhaps, but I doubt it very much. The fact that she is having sex in order to get pregnant because she wants a child suggests that she does understand the physical consequences of having sex. Likewise she may well have the capacity to consent to sexual relations - she is after all an adult not a child (even though her mental age is comparable to a childs). It's unlikely that she is being abused, that would be a much easier situation to manage and control against. It's more likely that she is in a relationship or consenting to sexual relations with another regular person with a learning disability. The issue is that if she gets pregnant, she may not emotionally (or even physically) be able to cope with pregnancy; and if she was able to give birth then it would have to be taken into care. It may well be that she has been pregnant a number of times before or even given birth to one or more children who already have been taken into care. Another pregnancy may be particuarly risky for her health. I have come across this situation before (albeit very rarely).

The issue then becomes what do you do in this situation? There are no easy answers.
LD clinical psychologist said…
''The difference is the nuns were not forced.''

The difference is that the nuns had the mental capacity to make that decision themselves (although I think the vatican did make it a condition of working in some very dangerous areas so you could question the element of free will in the matter).

This woman does not have the ability to make this decision herself in consideration of all the risks. If she wished to have a baby but there was a high probability that she would die during the pregnancy (resulting in the loss of the unborn baby), should be allowed to proceed?

If she needed a life-saving operation but did not want it because she was scared of injections, should she be allowed to die or should the decision be made in her best interests that she should be made to have the operation?

It's a close judgement call.
LD clinical psychologist said…
''The difference is the nuns were not forced.''

I imagine the nuns would have been instructed to take oral contraceptives by virtue of their vows of obedience, and they would not have beeen placed in such dangerous situations unless they agreed. In short, the church authorities decided it would be in their 'best interests'. Perhaps not that different in detail to the post's scenario as you might think.
John Skype said…
Lawrence, with respect your arguement and thinking is severly flawed here. If, as you claim, the state does not have the right to interfere in this lady's right to have a child; how can you claim that the state has the right to prevent other things such as homosexual activity or civil partnerships or same sex marriage, which you have advocated on a number of occasions?
1. Free will is being violated. That is why it is called 'forced sterlisation'.

2. You do not know the mental age of the person concerned, since you are not at court. Neither do you know the full facts of the case (nor do I), so don't make so many assumptions. I read one report that suggested she had 'hearing difficulties' and that was that.

3. LDCP: No, the nuns, in that case, requested it by their own volition and they did not request sterilisation but contraceptive pill. They CHOSE.

4. Lawrence, with respect your arguement and thinking is severly flawed here. If, as you claim, the state does not have the right to interfere in this lady's right to have a child; how can you claim that the state has the right to prevent other things such as homosexual activity or civil partnerships or same sex marriage, which you have advocated on a number of occasions?

That State has no 'right' to enforce that which is morally evil, nor even to condone that which is morally evil, whether that be forced sterilisation, abortion, unions between those of the same sex or suicide. Having a child is not a sin against nature (even if the situation of conception had been sinful, i.e outside of marriage). Sodomy, on the other hand, is.
LD clinical psychologist said…
''You do not know the mental age of the person concerned, since you are not at court. Neither do you know the full facts of the case (nor do I), so don't make so many assumptions. I read one report that suggested she had 'hearing difficulties' and that was that.''

I can estimate the girl's mental age from her IQ which I have read in other media reports - I am after all, a clinical psychologist working with people with learning disabilities and undertaking such specialist assessments is a regular part of my job. I am therefore not making assumptions but making a judgement based upon the details i know and my knowledge and experience. It seems to me that it is you making assumptios based on a brief Daily Mail article and your fantasies.

She may also have hearing difficulties (in addition to a learning / intellectual disability) but people who are a little bit deaf dont lack mental capacity and therefore need to have the cases referred to the court of protection. That's just ridiculous.

The court of protection is a safeguard to her human rights and we will have to wait for the judgement to hear all the facts. I'm sure when the judgement is released and you find out the full details, you won't post again to correct your scaremongering.
LD clinical psychologist said…
''LDCP: No, the nuns, in that case, requested it by their own volition and they did not request sterilisation but contraceptive pill. They CHOSE.''

NO, you are wrong about this. The nun's superiors and local bishop made the requests - and it was a condition of them continuing to live and work in that dangerous situation. Therefore they didn't choose themselves and they didn't really have FREE WILL since not to agree to contraception would have resulted in them being transfered back somewhere else. At most, they could be said to have acquiesced to it. Just because somebody didn't force the bill down their throats doesn't mean they weren't forced into the situation.
LD clinical psychologist said…
''That State has no 'right' to enforce that which is morally evil, nor even to condone that which is morally evil, whether that be forced sterilisation, abortion, unions between those of the same sex or suicide. Having a child is not a sin against nature (even if the situation of conception had been sinful, i.e outside of marriage). Sodomy, on the other hand, is.''

Would allowing her to repeatedly have children knowing that there is a high probability that she or them (or both) would die in the process - and even if the baby did survive that they would certainly have to be taken into care - is this not a situation of moral evil? In these rare circumstances it may be morally permissable to try and prevent the situation occuring. I know the church's position in these extraodinary circumstances is NOT absolute, perhaps we should seek the opinion of a moral theologian (which you are not).
mark skype said…
''That State has no 'right' to enforce that which is morally evil, nor even to condone that which is morally evil, whether that be forced sterilisation, abortion, unions between those of the same sex or suicide. Having a child is not a sin against nature (even if the situation of conception had been sinful, i.e outside of marriage). Sodomy, on the other hand, is.''

Except that we do not live in a catholic confessional state and the role of the law is not to enforce catholic moral teaching. Since there are a plurality of beliefs about what is moral, the law's role is to seek the common good based on soe consensus. Although the law often encompasses moral principles, it is not simply the enforcement of morality. Ifit were then adultery or telling lies would be illegal and punished by law. You seem to seek the catholic equivalent of islamic sharia law.
LD clinical psychologist said…
All the media outlets are reporting that the woman has a learning disability NOT hearing difficulties eg The guardian:
''Woman with learning disability at centre of latest controversial issue to be heard by a court which usually sits in private''

You stand corrected!
LD clinical psychologist said…
I am pleased with the court of protection's ruling today and it gives me renewed trust in the legal process. I also noted that the steralisation request was not initiated on the whim of some 'nazi social worker' but by the woman's own mother. The woman's health is at risk from repeated c-sections which is why the case was referred to the court for judgement...

LONDON – A British judge ruled Tuesday that more evidence is needed before deciding whether to grant a mother's wish to have her mentally disabled daughter sterilized — a case that is troubling medical ethicists.

The 21-year-old woman, who has a significant learning disability and has been identified only as P, already has one child who is being cared for by her mother, Mrs. P. The woman is scheduled to give birth via Cesarean section on Wednesday and her mother has proposed that doctors could sterilize her daughter at the same time.

"From my point of view, I want the best for my daughter," Mrs. P told the court. "Obviously, we can't carry on supporting more and more children."

She said if her daughter had more children in the future, they would have to be cared for by the state.

The decision Tuesday means no sterilization will take place this week.

The daughter was represented in court by a government-appointed lawyer. The Court of Protection, where the case is being heard, would not comment on ongoing legal cases.

The presiding judge described P as a "sexually healthy and active" young woman and said it was hardly surprising there was serious concern about future pregnancies.

But some critics questioned whether the radical step was necessary and worried about the precedent it would set.

"This is eugenics if they are doing this because she's mentally disabled," said George Annas, chair of the department of health law and bioethics at Boston University. "This decision needs to be made based on the person's best interests, not the best interests of society or her caregivers."

Annas said to justify sterilization without the woman's consent, doctors needed to prove why a less invasive method like birth control wouldn't work.

Under Britain's Mental Capacity Act, passed in 2005, courts can decide on medical treatments for people deemed incompetent. Most cases, however, involve decisions about withdrawing intravenous food from patients in a permanent vegetative state.

British courts can also order abortions for women who lack the mental capacity to consent or compel lifesaving medical treatments that mentally disabled people might otherwise refuse.

"It is a drastic step to sterilize someone against their will simply because they lack mental capacity," said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, a British charity for people with learning disabilities. "It is a gross invasion of someone's basic rights unless there are clear medical grounds ... we urge the court to tread very carefully."

Other experts said sterilizing a woman without her consent could be warranted in exceptional cases, such as if the woman isn't able to take care of a baby.

"The issue is also whether or not you're being kind or being cruel by repeatedly exposing her to the dangers of pregnancy and the risk of a C-section without having the opportunity to keep the child," said John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester. "If the alternative is to expose her to further pregnancies only to see her children repeatedly taken away, sterilization could be the lesser of those evils."

The case is now scheduled to be heard in April after the court requested more expert evidence.
LDCP

According to The Guardian no ruling has come.

People aren't dogs, LDCP, you can't just have them 'spayed'.

Oh and just because the mother of the lady is the one supporting this, I don't think that adds moral weight to the argument.

Mothers have abortions, remember. Mothers in this country kill their own.
PSH said…
Lauence, READ THE REPORT.You are suck a frustrating idiot. The ethicists and theologians are putting great effortinto THINKING about the best course of action and trying to do what is best FOR THE INDIVIDUAL. The woman's MOTHER requested the procedure.Still,in your warped mind it continues to be processed as: 'the state is taking over/only priests can decide what's right/people shouldn't think because the pope does it for us/jesus wants us to only follow catholic codes from the 16th century devised to stop the protestant revolution sweeping its power away.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT NAZI EUGENICS. EXPLICITLY. END OF. If anything it is about the struggle of power between paretn/carer & the state. Usually you support the parent here (sex education, faith schools etc), but it seems in this instance you actually side with the state.

If only life really were as simple as you and the half dozen priests who you listen to really believe
I've read the report, my thoughts are above. The family needs support. Say a prayer for the girl.
LD Clin Psych said…
''Oh and just because the mother of the lady is the one supporting this, I don't think that adds moral weight to the argument.''

I never said because the mother requested the steralisation that adds moral weight to the argument so please stop putting erroneous words in my mouth. I gave this information to correct your unfounded assertion that the case was initiated by some 'nazi social worker' which it wasnt't. The case was referred to the court of protection because the girl didn't have the mental capacity to make these kind of decisions herself and the mother (her carer) wanted to make this drastic decision on her behalf. The court of protection is a legal safeguard and it's job is to ensure that any decision taken is the girl's best interest. The fact that it has rejected the mother's request suggests that our legal processes work.
LD clini pych said…
Mr England, can you please acknowledge that you were in fact wrong in claiming that this woman only had hearing difficulties rather than a learning disability - which you tried to claim earlier.

You seem to have a profound ability only to selectively atune to information you agree with; either that or you lack integrity and are dishonest.
If not the latter, can you acknowledge when you are wrong or incorrect please.
Cecilia said…
I wonder what set this woman off on the course of sexual relations? Perhaps she was interfered with to beging with, or perhaps it was sex education itself that aroused her curiousity. If she has the mental age of five then she won't be able to give informed consent to sexual intercourse - although she may know it leads to pregnancy she almost certainly won't understand about the emotional effects on another person of entering into an intimate sexual relationship.
My interest in this? I am the mother of a son with severe learning disability. Anything taught to him or done to him (yes, anything)which would lead to awakens a sexual interest in him would be abuse.