Individuals with Mild Mental Retardation
During the early part of this century, anyone with mental retardation, including those in the mild range, was subject to compulsory sterilization laws. This chapter includes five very different individual's experiences with sterilization. Pseudonyms are used and facts are altered to protect anonymity. The cases are presented as they occurred; hence, they do not reflect my own attitudes about what should have happened. It is hoped that previous chapters have prepared readers to form their own opinions about the appropriateness of each sterilization decision.
Michelle was doing a three-week, end-of-the-year practicum with junior high students classified mildly mentally disabled. After consulting with Katherine, her supervising teacher, she decided to teach a family life unit that she had developed in a methods class. Older than most undergraduates, Michelle had married and become a mother shortly after high school. After working as an aide in special education classrooms for many years, she started college. At 31, Michelle was one semester away from her undergraduate degree. Her own two children were in sixth and eighth grade.
Permission slips for participation in the sexuality unit were sent home with students. The students groaned and giggled, "Oh, no. Do we have to?" when the unit was announced. Katherine warned Michelle, "It's like pulling teeth to get anything from home." Eagerness to start the unit was revealed by the presence of 14 permission slips the next morning. One student, Tamara, had not returned the slip. When Michelle quietly reminded the 14-year-old to bring it soon so she could be part of the unit, to her