If you get thrown in jail in White County, Tennessee, you can take a month off your sentence if you’re willing to let the state render you unable to reproduce.
Judge Sam Benningfield believes coercing inmates into sterilization could reduce the number of children in his area born with complications arising from parental drug use. He also contends that being “burdened” with children could hold some inmates back.
“I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened with children,” Benningfield told the local WTVF. “This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves.”
The judge added: “Two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs. I see it as a win-win.”
In order to qualify for the reduced sentences, male inmates must undergo vasectomies and females must agree to a three-year birth control implant called Nexplanon. Both procedures are free to inmates, paid for by the state’s Department of Health.
As with anything else that begins as a “for the kids” measure, this is yet another example of government nannyism run amok.
No one wants babies born to drug addicts who can’t even care for themselves.
But wouldn’t state funds be better used treating the underlying causes of drug addictions than providing a free procedure to absolve addicts of what is the oldest of all natural human responsibilities? And you seldom hear about them because only horror stories get press– but what of irresponsible folks whose lives are turned around by the experience of parenthood?
Both procedures are reversible– but that doesn’t make asking citizens to choose one form of freedom over another Constitutional.
As the ACLU noted in a statement criticizing the policy: “Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional. Such a choice violates the fundamental constitutional right to reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity by interfering with the intimate decision of whether and when to have a child, imposing an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it. Judges play an important role in our community – overseeing individuals’ childbearing capacity should not be part of that role.”
It’s a slippery slope, for sure.
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