Sterilizing the mentally handicapped........

Jennifer - posted on 01/31/2012 ( 37 moms have responded )

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For those that don't know, I worked with mentally challenged children and am working on a degree to teach, so although it is not something I face as a parent, I am very attached to many of my 'kids'.



Yesterday, I ran into a 'girl' who is about 13 mentally. She is 21 years old, and will never be able to live alone and totally care for herself. Her mother and aunt share that job, and actually are very sweet people. I don't want anyone to think they are abusive, they do the best they can...

Anyway, "Shelly" was heartbroken because she had been forced to break up with her boyfriend. I talked to her for a bit, and then talked to her mom. Long story short, mom is afraid "Shelly" will get pregnant, so she will not allow her to be around any boys anymore.



I can't really say much, I'm not in that situation, and she has a point. If a baby was born, "Shelly" can't raise it. Mom and aunt are getting older. The sister has already committed to caring for "Shelly", but a baby would most likely be placed for adoption(and have high possibilities of being special needs). That would really be horrible on "Shelly". BUT, what about her lose of human companionship? Should a parent (NOT the goverenment!) be allowed the option to have a child like that sterilized? I'd never really thought about it before, but now I keep thinking about all my kids out there. Scary, cause a pregnancy would not end good for them!

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Becky - posted on 01/31/2012

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I'm torn. On the one hand, the idea kind of turns my stomach, but on the other hand, people who are mentally handicapped still have feelings and emotions. I would see it as much harder on them to be forced into an abortion or to have their child taken from them, either by social services or by an adoptive family. So yes, I think that if a person is mentally challenged to the point where they are unable to care for themselves, let alone an infant, the family should be able to have that option. I also think the person should always be appointed an independent advocate before that decision is made too though, to ensure the family is truly acting in the best interest of that person, not just on selfish motives.

[deleted account]

The choice doesn't have to be either "sterilisation" or nothing... what about that thing that is injected under your skin and gives you a couple of years of birth control (can't remember its name)? The mother of the young woman could get this organised without any moral dilemma, and then just keep getting it repeated every couple of years.

Merry - posted on 02/09/2012

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I'd also agree with preventing women or men from reproducing more when they're already determined to be unfit parents.

Women who have had multiple abortions or had her parental rights terminated by the state.

Men who have gone to jail a few times for not paying child support or who have x amount of kids who they haven't paid regularly for.

Elfrieda - posted on 02/08/2012

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@Sarah

I think when people disagree with that, it's because it's so easy to picture it getting out of control. Mental age of a 7 year old? Sterilize. Alcoholic? Sterilize. Drug addict? Sterilize. Abusive? Sterilize.

Okay... now what about someone with low IQ? Sure they might love their kids but we know that children of highly educated people do better... sterilize? Caught with a DUI or marijuana possession... sterilize? Rearfacing carseats are safer, so if a parent is caught turning their child around before a year... sterilize?

Allison - posted on 02/06/2012

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wow hard question. i dont know. i honestly dont know i dont think there is a good answer. i guess it depends upon the situation. besides blocking parenthood would this help or hurt them physically in the long run?



I dont know while i understand why i cant help but to think its wrong. i mean some of the mentally handicapped people who could argueably be steralized would probably be better parents than alot of people who arent mentally handicapped.

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Merry - posted on 02/12/2012

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I agree it couldn't be forced sterilyzation but maybe a choice of if you abort another baby it comes with a tube tying. Either don't get pregnant, don't choose to abort, or you get two in one based on your history of never preventing or wanting babies you keep making.

[deleted account]

"Women who have had multiple abortions or had her parental rights terminated by the state."



Sorry, I dont' think multiple abortions (while distasteful) is anyone's business and forced sterilization is not an option for me.



Because there's always that one person who is an exceptionn. For the rest of the discussion, I"m very torn and can't express a good answer right now.

Jennifer - posted on 02/09/2012

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Actually Sarah, I'd agree on the druggy or chronic welfare mom and deadbeat dads being 'fixed' before I would my handicapped kids. My husband was placed for adoption at 6 because EVERY person in his family was too strung out to care for him after his mothers death. His cousin has at least 6 kids floating around out there. All but two have different mothers. He's paid $4000 in child support, and that is only from grabbed tax returns, which he whined about for months. Ironically, so did the pregnant GF, who is now trying to get his tax return for her baby! I'd say one kid. If you can't care for it, or it is born with drugs or alchol, your DONE. Half the kids in our special ed program are FAS. What pisses me off, is the state won't label them as such, and we are NEVER allowed to use that term with parents. They don't want mom to feel guilty. RRRRR, makes my blood boil.

Sarah - posted on 02/09/2012

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I understand a slippery slope argument, but am still entitled to my opinion. How that would relate to the Amish, Muslim, Gay, or Conservative communities I can't see. I don't think most, non-racist people think that the Amish or a Muslim person can't provide a stable home for their child. Sure, some people do disagree with some of these cultures, but their kids aren't the ones who usually end up in Foster Care. Maybe I've just seen too many abandoned foster kids and drug addicted and FAS babies in my line of work to think that a parent's rights trump theirs. All parents have an moral obligation to provide the best start in life for their children. If someone can't provide that then they should be forced into sterilization (BTW - I should clarify, I'm not condoning permanent sterilization, but rather temporary) until they can. You may disagree with me, and that's okay. But after spending shift after shift dosing a newborn with morphine to counteract the drugs in his system his mother took and knowing it was her 6th baby taken away at birth, and seeing the pain in his face as he detoxed (an all-too-common scenario that plays out in pretty much any city) you might feel the same. As far as the mentally handicapped, I also don't think it's fair to expect their caregivers to take on the responsibility of a newborn on top of their care. If they can't take care of themselves they certainly won't be able to take care of a newborn. And yes, I do feel they have a right to companionship, but children aren't a companion, they're a responsibility.

Merry - posted on 02/09/2012

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One night out drinking?

Smokes cigarettes?

Amish?

Muslim?

Gay?

Conservative?

Racist?

It gets tricky. :-/

Sarah - posted on 02/08/2012

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Although I'm sure a lot of people disagree, I believe they should be sterilized (it is against the law here to do so, huge controversy over past government practices). Having said that, I would also extend it to drug addicts, heavy alcoholics, abusers, etc. I believe if you can't physically, emotionally, or financially care for a child you shouldn't have one.

Jodi - posted on 02/05/2012

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I was mirena and it did not stop my periods. For some women it does, for some it doesn't. For some it makes them heavier (which was my case) for some it makes them lighter. Like everything else in life, the coil is going to react differently to every woman and every body. The only way to guarantee the end of periods is to have a hysterectomy, which would also end her production of estrogen and land her on hormone therapy due to being thrown into early menopause. At 13, getting my period was a shock for sure, but I was able to cope with it just fine after getting used to it.

Merry - posted on 02/05/2012

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I think it's highly individualized issue.

I'll read the comments in a sec but on first thought I can say I can see the point of doing it but I also see the point of not.

I do think something like a mirena or implant etc could be a good alternative.

Surgery is a big deal.

But if the adult doesn't have the mental capabilities of an adult then their carer should still should be able to make decisions in their best interest.

Maybe with a specialists permission etc.

But yes, I think making her break up with her boyfriend is not the right choice, I'd much prefer she get a long term birth control.

Jennifer - posted on 02/05/2012

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Actually Tracey, it's my understanding that they will NOT give a hysterectomy anymore, unless it is cancer. Not even to normal women who BEG for one. My sister has 3 kids, is soon to be a grandmother, and was told it would be dangerous to have another child. She also has wicked PMS, lots of cysts and endometreosis. They won't let her do surgrery. I also have several friends who would like to have it done, but can't.



Periods can be very upsetting for these girls, and many can't do the self care needed. "Shelly" was very upset about it all when it first started, but she is able to care for it mostly by herself now. The depo shot does reduce them, though, which was one reason it was choosen.



I don't think that drastic of a step should be taken. I think tying the tubes(both male and female) is as far as this should ever be taken. Desexing often leads to loosing a part of the human experience, imo. I see your point though, as I have had to deal with many girls who are starting and can't do self care..........

Tracey - posted on 02/04/2012

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If this girl is never going to have kids why put her through periods & PMT every month for the next 30 years? If she is mentally 13 that must be upseting to her?

Jennifer - posted on 02/03/2012

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Some good discussion points! I also have had some bad experiences with kids labelled lower functioning than they actually were, and court appointed advocates who don't care. Unfortunitly, almost all mentally handicapped girls will be abused at some point in their lives, so that is a real fear for parents. Also, I've seen several generations of my kids families, and whether nature or nuture, most end up with severe difficulties. Thse with normal parents almost always end up 'better off'. BUT, then who's to judge. The people who live in the low-income apartments seem fairly happy to me! I guess it comes down to the cost of care, and I don't like that!!



Anyway, update on Shelly, her mom is going to get her on the depo shot, and let her have her boyfriend back. They really don't want her to have sex, but know that she needs the relationship. She said that the families were talking and working some things out. I'm so happy! Those two have been dating since 6th grade!

[deleted account]

Years ago, back when I was in law school, I was working with a hospital system that was dealing with that very issue. Apparently, they would have a few cases a year with a parent wanting a child sterilized. The case I sat in on dealt with a situation very similar to the one described -- a young adult women with the intellect of a child, who will never be able to live independently and certainly would not be able to care for anyone else. Honestly, I felt conflicted then and I still do. I remember hearing the parent's talk and what bothered me the most is that they seemed to be almost OK with her being taken advantage of sexually at some point, so long as there was no hope of the scandal of the pregnancy. It was weird (I'm not saying that that feeling is typical of most parents, but it was something they clearly had thought about). With her case, her parents were immigrants and they basically told the hospital that if they didn't do it, they would take her back to their home country and have it done there. It was a tough situation.

Stifler's - posted on 02/03/2012

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The mentally challenged should be allowed to have relationships! They're human beings with primal urges like the rest of us. I do agree that if the kids will be taken away what's the point of having them there definitely needs to be some form of reliable birth control implemented. Sterilising someone isn't just as simple as using contraception. There are a lot of different factors involved.

[deleted account]

Morgan - re your comment that the children of "mentally challenged" parents have no greater chance of being mentally challeneged themselves....



Well I think it would depend on each case and the reason why that person has a mental disability. Sometimes it would be genetic factors and sometimes it's because of an illness or accident. But in any case, if someone with a mental disability (say a very low IQ) were to raise a child, that child would have poor chance of getting a good upbringing. The problems would probably carry on into the next generation.



It's nature AND nurture...

Jodi - posted on 02/02/2012

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Morgan, I agree with you on certain points, agree with you about anyone with a cognitive level of someone who would normally be old enough to conceive in the first place...you know, a teenager. But what about someone with the cognitive level of say, a 5 year old. They may have the urges to have sex and enjoy it, just like an average 5 year old will enjoy touching themselves for pleasure, but to have a baby? A 5 year old can't fully comprehend how sex leads to babies, what will happen to her body, and then actually having a baby? A c-section is a major operation, tubal ligation can be done by lapro and a vasectomy is a breeze (comparatively), vaginal delivery, I can only imagine how traumatic that would be. And to care for a baby?



I don't think anyone here is saying, "sterilize all mentally disabled people!" Most people are saying, it depends on each individual. I for one, still think that someone who has the mental age of a CHILD, it might be a good case to consider sterilization. Someone who has the mental age of a teenager, that should really be a joint decision between the guardians and a non-biased court appointed person with input from the individual him or herself. (I would NOT allow my 13 year old to make the decision to have a baby!)



I can understand your opinion, but I really don't think it's as black and white as that.

Lady Heather - posted on 02/02/2012

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I actually know some people who have this problem. Their son has fathered two babies now and the mum is also mentally challenged. The parents can't really do anything beyond attempt to impress upon him the importance of birth control.



I really don't know, but I do know his parents wish they could make that choice for him.

Kelina - posted on 02/02/2012

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I don't know about you but at 13 I didn't have the greatest memory for stuff like birth control. I think possibly an iud might work but would still require remembering 5 years down the road to get it replaced. I think Tracey brings up an interesting question though. Should it only be handicapped women whose families are able to make that decision for them? what about the men?

Mrs. - posted on 02/02/2012

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I think there are birth control options, like the shot of IUD that would do the job without sterilization.



Handicapped people are sexual beings just like everyone else, it is natural for her to want and have a bf. If she is like most 13 years olds, her mom should do what most mothers of 13 year olds do if they see their daughters are close to being sexual active...put her on BC.

[deleted account]

As hard of a decision it is to make, I think that should be an option. People who are mentally handicapped, depending on the severity, aren't able to fully understand protection around having kids and would not be able to take car of a child once conceived. The child, which would have a higher likelihood of being special needs, would then have to be cared for my family or the state. Special needs kids aren't exactly in demand when it comes to adoptions and it would be an added expense to a family that may not be able to afford or cope with it. People who are mentally handicapped to a severe degree should still be able to enjoy a healthy sex life and companionship with others but it's not a good idea for them to have kids. There should be a very thorough process to go through though before sterilizing a person.

Tracey - posted on 02/02/2012

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My disabled son can obviously not get pregnant but if he was a girl I would have him sterilized. He can't look after himself let alone a baby.

Caitlin - posted on 02/01/2012

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There is a "boy" in our extended family (I say boy because he has the mental ago of a 6 year old - but he's actually 30) with several issues. One of his issues is he does not feel pain. He has been chemically castrated since before he hit puberty. The fear was mostly that he would act on his sexual impulses and because he does not feel pain there would be nothing anyone could do to stop him. I dont' think that is wrong - it's for the good of society.



I don't know if we can says omeone witht he mind of a 13 year old should not be a mother.. but someone with the mind of a prepubescent probably should not be. Kind of like the movie "I am Sam".. It really should be a case by case basis.

Ashley - posted on 01/31/2012

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my sisters ex best friends sister was mentally challenged 19 with the mind of a 13 year old... she does take care of her daughter with alot of help... She would put the baby to bed and leave her to "play". While I am against sterilization I do believe a family should be able to get permanent BC for their daughters. The mother in my story can feed, dress, play but the harder stuff is harder on her and her mother and grandmother do the work.

Kelina - posted on 01/31/2012

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I agree with Jodi and Cathy. At 13 I was well aware of birth control, and the fact that sex made babies. So in a case where the adults mind is still a CHILD yes I'd agree with that, but also with the advocate. Who knows, the person may even want it themselves and just not know how to ask. We have a woman at her church whose sister made a deal with her-when their mother died she told her mentally challenged sister she could have everything. The house, everything as long as she had her tubes tied. And to be honest I absolutely agree with that decision. She can barely take care of herself let alone a child.

Jennifer - posted on 01/31/2012

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Her bf was also mentally handicapped, which seems to be normal, as they take the same classes and such. As teachers we think it is cute, many of these kids don't even understand the bf/gf thing, but a close friend is a great need. We've even had a few that are 'gay'. Again, not sure they understood it all, but they need friends. We've seen little sexual contact between the kids, but it happens. It happens more often that a 'normal' boy will target the girls, with no intentions of being sincere. A few times we've had 'normal' girls target our boys.



This girl wants a baby. She is pretty darn innocent sexually (so is the boy) but mom caught some kissing. That does usually lead to more, as a friend says, she's seen physical and mentally handicaps, but never sexual handicaps. BC is a really good option for the girls, as long as no other problems come into play. (there are some legal hoops to get it, but I THINK it is fairly easy, never done it myself) But the boys?



Also might add, some of the kids that are higher functioning are having kids in HS and are third or fourth generation. They live in the low income apartments, have a nurse who drops by and checks on them daily, and are like a little society unto themselves. Again, I've known these people for years, and it never even crossed my mind that there might be a better way. I just have a problem crossing that line.....

Jodi - posted on 01/31/2012

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I think it's a case by case situation. At 13, I was fully aware that sex=possibility of babies. I think birth control would be an option. They could talk with her and let her help make that decision. An IUD is something she wouldn't have to remember to take everyday, it lasts 5 years (some last longer) and has great rates for preventing pregnancy.



If the person in question has the mental capacity of a young child, then I feel that it might be in everyone's best interest.



Cathy, you make a great point about the father. But my only concern with that is, even though she's in the body of a 21 year old, she's 13. What kind of "man" is dating a 13 year old? Either a creep, or someone equally mentally handicapped (meaning, not the best couple to raise a child.). That's just my opinion though. If it were my child, and she were in all senses, except physically, a 13 year old child, I would not let her date anyone older.



I think that other avenues, such as birth control, should be explored first and foremost. But, if in the end sterilization seems to be the favored route, I think Becky makes a great point, an independant, non-biased, person should be appointed to assess the individuals involved to make sure it is, in fact, the best option for all involved.

[deleted account]

I think it all depends on the situation. Like in the example Cathy gave, that had a good and positive outcome. But what if the situation had been otherwise? What if the father had been mentally handicapped or had simply skipped out on her? The raising of a baby is a task that shouldn't be assigned to her mom, grandmother, sister, anyone. The solution? Well, I think that sterilization may be taking it too far. It feels like a violation to me. However, I do feel like birth control is a sensible and wise option. I agree mostly with Cathy though. "A child in a loving and stable home. Being mentally handicap doesn't diminish the capacity to love."

Ania - posted on 01/31/2012

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Wow! That is very tough issue...I think they should be sterilized. If you can't care for yourself, you cannot care for a baby, that is enough reason to do it. It is very sad and sounds a little unhumane, but reality is that this girl is probably not even aware that she can have or want to have a baby....I don't know....

Krista - posted on 01/31/2012

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Yeah, this is one of those really difficult ethical situations. I hate the idea of making another adult's reproductive decisions for them, but by the same token, if a dependent of mine has the body and hormones of an adult, but the mental capacity of a young child, then is it really in their best interests to become pregnant and go through childbirth, which would probably confuse and alarm them terribly, and then have a baby which would never be able to be raised by its mother?



Cases like this are always going to have to be "what is the lesser of the two evils". And I think that in cases where there is absolutely no possibility of the person in question being able to care for themselves independently, then it really is better for everybody if steps are taken to ensure that the person does not bear children.

Elfrieda - posted on 01/31/2012

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I think so, if there are lots of checks and balances to make sure that it's in the best interest of the "child". I can see in this case that it would make life easier for everyone. (not to encourage Shelly to have sex with her boyfriend, but it would ease everyone's mind just in case they did)

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