April 22, 2024

Mentally disabled woman fights forced sterilisation

A 26-year-old mentally disabled Illinois woman is fighting attempts by her guardian to have her sterilised against her will. The woman, Kirsten Johnson, cannot care for herself properly but says “I would love to have the opportunity to take my time taking care of a baby”. She is being represented by an advocacy group for the disabled.

Her aunt, Vera Howse, wants her to have a tubal ligation because Kirsten is sexually active and has already expressed a wish to get married. Although Kirsten has agreed to use various forms of birth control, none of them seem adequate. She reacted badly to Depo-Provera, gaining weight and suffering from high blood pressure.

Under Illinois law, it is possible to force Kirsten to be sterilised, as the courts examine what the wards would decide for themselves if they were competent and what is in their best interest. The judge hearing the case insists that it has nothing whatsoever to do with compulsory sterilisation of “mental defectives” — a policy which resulted with tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians being sterilised and ended only about 30 years ago. “Only Kirsten Johnson’s best interest was at issue here,” wrote Probate Judge James Riley.