We Interrupt Your Regular Programming…

Days Five and Six (and Seven, by the time this gets published) are coming. Hey, I said I’d take photos every day; I didn’t necessarily say they’d actually get posted every day, right? Day Five and Six would have been published last night, except that… my internet is down again! YAAAAAY! Download speeds are fine, peachy, in fact. Upload speeds have slowed to a dribble, and Flickr finds that unacceptable (oh, and yes, I could email them in to Flickr, but that also requires uploading a file into gmail to send it, and gmail also finds our current 0.01mbps speed unacceptable for uploading files).

So. In the mean time, I thought I’d link to this editorial in our local paper from this past weekend:
Surry County woman sterilized at 13 wants justice

The scenario itself is, of course, heart-wrenching. The summary for those who don’t want to click over is basically that from the 1920s to as late as the mid-1970s, some communities engaged in eugenics practices that we would find horrifying today– that is, sterilizing those who they believed for some reason should be prevented from reproducing in order to essentially remove them from the gene pool (North Carolina did a LOT of this, for reasons which are too numerous to engage in here, but basically relate to the fact that there was a crapload of money in this state back then– thanks, tobacco!- and the rich were quite fond of eugenics). The populations that were deemed worthy of removal from the gene pool included the poor, the racially-undesirable, epileptics, and those with mental deficiencies (to name a few). The subject of this opinion piece was sterilized at age 13, and told that she was having her appendix removed. Her mother agreed to the procedure, though they aren’t entirely sure what sort of pressureful tactics might have been used to encourage her to agree to that procedure.

Anyhow, this woman was rightfully devastated when she determined at age 21 that she had, in fact, been surgically-sterilized, and she claims that due to her inability to have children. she has “never felt whole.” And as a result, she is rightfully seeking financial compensation due to her losses.

While the story itself stands alone as a topic of interest, to me, as part of an infertile couple, I’m interested to find out what exact monetary value the state places on the ability to attain parenthood, especially in light of so much opposition to infertility coverage, with many opponents claiming infertility as simply something that affects one’s lifestyle, not worthy of actual medical treatment and coverage like other diseases. The situations are, of course, different. In one, opponents might say that the state “intervened” in the natural order of things and wrongly limited someone’s ability to reproduce (and they would, of course, be right).

But still. While there is truly no adequate financial compensation for sterilizing a person whose only crime is poverty (or epilepsy, or slight mental deficiency), I’m curious to find out what value people would be willing to assign to the loss of the ability to experience motherhood, and why that same value is not assigned to people whose infertility is caused by, say, one’s choice of partner, or naturally-occuring conditions which limit fertility.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is there any comparison to be made? Are you curious about the value placed on the motherhood experience?

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6 Responses to We Interrupt Your Regular Programming…

  1. AL says:

    Very thought- provoking. I had NO IDEA that selective sterilization ever happened, so disturbing. thanks for posting about this.

  2. Esperanza says:

    First of all, it is just horrifying to think that the state did that to ANYONE at any time, let alone a time so recently that the person can now be suing them for it. I don’t even know what to say to that – it’s just abhorrent.

    Once I get past that (hard to do) I have to concede that it will be interesting to see what the ruling ends up being. I think it will have to make some kind of comment on what our society deems it means to be a mother. While of course no monetary value could take the place of being able to have children, the amount they choose (if they choose compensation at all) will be telling. I’ll definitely be watching that.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  3. loribeth says:

    Oooh, very interesting, & good questions!! I remember similar cases years ago in Alberta — legal cases too, I believe. Not sure how they were settled. Please keep us posted!

  4. loribeth says:

    I Googled “sterilization Alberta” & came up with a whole bunch of stuff, including this, which mentions a settlement of $740,000 in the case of Leilani Muir in 1996. This is the case I was thinking about. It was very well publicized at the time.


  5. kimbosue says:

    I had no idea this ever happened in the USA! I wonder what $$ they will put on her inabililty to conceive….I know there was no max in my mind!

  6. Samantha says:

    I remember learning about this when I lived in NC. It is pretty shocking and I hope that she is compensated beyond the apologies and handwringing that’s been done in the past. However, I’m not sure that they would value her loss in the way that they might value your loss. I think what the legislature or courts will be thinking about is not what is worth monetarily to have all means available to conceive. Even if Buelin hadn’t been sterilized against her will, no one could guarantee that she would have become a mother. What they did take away from her was the ability to pursue motherhood through the ordinary and anticipated means. I don’t think they would see the ability to have insurance cover IVF if you can’t conceive via typical means to be the same as deliberately removing one’s ability to conceive AT ALL. Let’s say that you need to have ART because some doctor performed a medical procedure that screwed up your tubes or your uterus, maybe then a court would consider compensating you to be able to pay for the cost of ART. But I think they mainly see it as, if you can’t conceive via ordinary means, it’s your decision (and cost) on what to do next. Should infertility treatment be covered? Yes. But does this case really draw a good parallel? I don’t think so.

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