Sterilization of People with Mental Disabilities: Issues, Perspectives, and Cases

By Ellen Brantlinger | Go to book overview

2
Legal Systems that Affect Sterilization

Developments at all levels and in all kinds of legal systems in the United States document a rich history of thinking about disability and sexuality. There are four legal sources that influence the daily lives of people with disabilities and their families, as well as others in the community: the United States Constitution, state and federal legislation, litigation or case law, and special statements of rights.


CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

The Constitution of the United States lays down fundamental principles for the organization and administration of society. The concepts of equal protection and due process contained in the Fourteenth Amendment embody basic moral principles of fundamental fairness by stating that laws must be applied equally to diverse groups and that when deliberate classifications or exclusions occur in state or federal legislation, a "compelling government interest must exist to justify them" ( Mayer, 1979, p. 75). Hence, Haavik and Menninger ( 1981) challenge:

Can our society legitimately and legally prevent retarded people from marrying and having children when no such prohibitions have been placed on others who are judged to be unfit parents, such as alcoholics and child abusers? While procreation may be inadvisable for some severely involved individuals, the same proscription may be quite unfairly and inappropriately applied to other individuals who may be capable of parenthood but happen to be labeled mentally retarded. (p. 67)

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