Court orders on procreation

Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2016 Jan;293(1):87-99. doi: 10.1007/s00404-015-3770-6. Epub 2015 Jun 11.


Objective: The aim of this study is to empirically evaluate judgments entered from 1913 to 2013 in the matters of compulsory sterilization.

Methods: Holdings and dispositions at the U.S. Appellate and Supreme courts are randomly located in LexisNexis using Shepard's symbols. Continuous variables are processed with the Mantel-Haenszel method. Court orders are used as units of analysis.

Results: The majority of cases (56.4 %) concern minors at a mean age of 11.7 years. Forty-four (80 %) petitions are filed by the parents or guardians; 11 (20 %) are parens patriae. Petitions for female sterilization are denied in 56.4 % cases under the Federal Laws (2 U.S.C. 431; 28 U.S.C; 29 U.S.C; 42 U.S.C; 424 U.S.), Procedural due process clause of the 14th Amendment, statutes, and common law precedents. Petitions for female sterilization are granted in 36.4 % cases under the statutory penal codes, the Law of the land, precedents, and the dicta. No significant associations are found between the parity and degree of mental impairment (r = 0.342). Substantial correlations are met between the gender, degree of impairment (r (2) = 0.724), and dispositions (r (2) = 802). The mean age of women is 20.78 years; the mean age of men is 30.25 years. Correlations fail to establish reasoning between the age of the subjects and the entered judgments (r (2) = 0. 356).

Conclusions: (1) The female/male ratio (8:1) and age gap of the respondents indicate on a disproportionate impact of the statutes. (2) The procedure of sterilization in itself is incommensurate with equality, as the volume of surgery is uneven in males and females. (3) The case law is instructive with respect to which arguments have not been advanced. (4) Lastly, due to the etiological intricacy of mental impairment, with genetic transmission strikingly different in men and women, expert-witnesses ought to act in a medical vacuum because there is no mathematical certainty as to the transmission mode of the traits in question (exon and intron mutations, triplet repeat disorders, histone disorders, autosomal-dominant or autosomal-recessive transmission, sex chromosome-linkage, polygenomic imprinting, and organic reasons).

Keywords: Compulsory sterilization; Courts; Procreative liberty; Reproductive choices.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Judicial Role*
  • Legislation as Topic*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Sterilization, Involuntary*
  • Sterilization, Reproductive
  • Supreme Court Decisions*
  • United States