Thursday, January 19, 2012


Cases of this sort are fascinating, primarily for the unusual gymnastics of reasoning undertaken in resolving them.

Whenever someone proposes to sterilize someone else, for whatever reason, obviously there should be some voice of skepticism raised, just to make sure the idea is being thought through, and either accepted or rejected for rational, hopefully at least somewhat utilitarian reasons. This does not seem to be the case here, the ruling does not appear to have a practical basis.

Consider the discordant rationales being deployed here. You have a 32-year-old woman whose mental illness is severe enough that her parents have to care for her. She is legally incompetent to take care of herself, to support herself, to make rational decisions for herself. This is not in dispute by any of the litigating parties, nor by the appellate court which overturned the first ruling.

So ostensibly this woman -- who, again, cannot care for herself, and therefore cannot support herself -- would suffer a tremendous civil wrong were she compelled to either abort the fetus she is currently carrying, or even to be temporarily or permanently sterilized afterward. Fair enough. This is not an unreasonable argument on its face.

But one still has to wonder at what expense comes avoiding this great wrong. Maybe the 'rents are independently wealthy, so they can just kick down for an daughter who can't take care of herself or any number of children she "chooses" -- to the extent that a person declared legally incompetent can be said to have made a rational choice in the first place.

But what if they aren't wealthy? What about the kid she already has, that the parents are taking care of? Or the fetus, that may be damaged from the drugs she has to take, or damaged by her if she has to go off those drugs during the pregnancy? Do any of the other people in this scenario have any rights, including the right not to be saddled with the poor decision-making capacity of a legally incompetent, mentally ill person? It's like their concerns don't matter at all, they are just there to accept responsibility.

I don't necessarily assume offhand that there is a political agenda underpinning any of this, though I do recall a privately-funded movement in Southern California in the '90s that set out to essentially pay crackheads with at least four kids to get their tubes tied. The movement got shouted down by self-styled women's rights groups, who bizarrely (imho) felt that a crackhead's "right" to reproduce infinitely trumped, say, the right of her children to not enter teh world addicted to hard drugs, or the right of society to not be compelled to infinitely underwrite this foolishness.

I suggest that this is one of those issues, like abortion, where the biological function of reproduction has been granted some mystical, exalted, practically untouchable status. It is a polite fiction people seem to have tacitly agreed on, this one inviolability of the right to irresponsibly reproduce with impunity.

Of course there are any number of reprehensible historical examples. Fortunately we live in a society whose very modernity enables judges to establish proper mechanisms to prevent such instances. We're not talking about sterilizing every retard and criminal here. (Although really, people, aren't there enough Juggalos in the world already, must we clutter up a dying planet with more, to accelerate the impending doom?)

You can propose legislation that allows for wiretapping, pulling suspects off the street and throwing them into Gitmo for torture, or just lobbing a missile at them halfway around the world, without trial or even charge, and no one will bat an eyelash. But Flying Spaghetti Monster forfend that anyone intervene in a legally incompetent person's "right" to compel everyone else in their life to bear the consequences of their decisions. It seems like the parents and the children should have some rights as well.


M. said...

Not to get all relativisty here (I hate that), but it looks like every uterus is sacred, if it belongs to somebody on your team. With this lady, it's the feminists who think hers is untouchable, come what may. Had she been a Christian, you can bet all the Jesus wackos woulda been up in a huff over activist judges tryin' to stop Christian babies for making' it into this vale of tears. Were she Jewish, there'd be no end to the public wailing over 'another Holocaust in the making.'

None of these fuckwits stops to think that, besides the obviously painful and unfair inflicting of random children upon the rest of us, our pockets and social safety network, there's the rising disaster of there being too many of us on this damn planet already! I think it was Stephen Hawking, in a 'Brief History of Time,' who noted that, at our present rates, in less than 600 years we'll be sitting shoulder to literal shoulder on this planet, and be consuming so much electricity that the Earth will look glowing red from outer space. Clearly an unsustainable prospect, so what's there to stop it, if feeble human reason is unable to get us to breed less? Well, a massive nuclear war that'll thin the herd considerably, as Hawking placidly notes, with a detachment that only someone largely unencumbered by having a body can afford.

Tell the people who get all vociferous about the sanctity of the right to reproduction that, unless used very, very wisely (for instance, as they do in China, with their 1-child policy), the foreseeable consequence of using that right with abandon is some global apocalypse that'll bring the population back to sustainable levels. Watch their stunned reaction, and subsequent flailing to ward off that horrific thought.

Heywood J. said...

Yeah, on one level they are intellectually consistent, in protecting the primacy of the woman to make her own decisions. And that's fine, that's obviously the heart of being pro-choice.

However, it's intellectually dishonest on another level. The typical argument one hears against pro-lifers is that they only care about the fetus, but that care ends soon as the baby leaves the womb. That seems to be the case here as well, as people advocating for a woman deemed to be incompetent seem to be utterly indiffernt to the plight of her entire family.

I don't know about that Hawking scenario -- with virtually every major necessary resource at or nearing peak equilibrium, it seems like either a natural die-off event or a cataclysmic resource war will preclude all else. Probably not in my lifetime or yours, but by the end of this century.