UK judge: Woman with disability must be forced to use long-term birth control

family planning, birth control, contraception, disability

A woman living with a disability in the United Kingdom will be forced to receive a long-term contraceptive implant against her will, thanks to a court ruling from a judge.

According to Metro, the woman, who was not named, is in her late twenties and has had children before, all of whom were taken away from her and placed into child protective services. She is currently pregnant and did not want to receive an implanted birth control device.

The woman arrived to testify on her own behalf for the Court of Protection and explained that she was willing to use birth control — specifically, the birth control shot, which lasts for three months at a time. “It’s my body and it’s my life,” she said. “I should have the choice on what I want.” Yet Justice Gwynneth Knowles disagreed, and ruled that when the woman undergoes a c-section, the implant should be put in anyway. Knowles said that she lacks the mental capacity to make the decision for herself.

In addition to ignoring the woman’s willingness to use birth control, Knowles’ justification for her decision highlights an inherent problem in her logic. If the woman in question is not capable of making the decision for herself on what kind of birth control to use, then she does not have the ability to consent to sex, meaning that every sexual encounter she has had has been rape. Yet it doesn’t seem that there is much concern for finding the men assaulting her — as long as she isn’t getting pregnant, it doesn’t seem to matter. On top of that, the issue also seems to be that she’s having children, raising the question of how Knowles would have responded if the woman was having multiple abortions, rather than giving birth to living children. Would she be considered capable if that were the case? There are also alternatives to forcing her to be on a method of birth control she does not want, like providing her with liaisons or aides to ensure her safety.

READ: Mom pressured to stop treating son with Down syndrome: ‘Make arrangements for his death’

People with disabilities are routinely mistreated in the United Kingdom. It’s far from the first time that someone with a disability has been forced onto birth control there, and around the world, forced sterilization, abortions, and birth control for people with disabilities are common, both throughout recent history and in the present day. Even a Paralympian felt compelled to speak out after she was pressured to have an abortion because of her disability. The country’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has found “deeply concerning” evidence that people with disabilities there routinely face abuse, mistreatment, bullying, and exclusion. And yet, when these people come forward to report the abuse they face, authorities don’t believe them. Doctors in the United Kingdom have also been known to issue DNRs for people with intellectual disabilities — without their or their families’ knowledge or consent. Other families report receiving substandard health care for their loved ones with a disability.

This kind of decision should be troubling for all people because ultimately, it sets a disturbing precedent: that at any time, a judge can decide that someone isn’t capable of making decisions for themselves, and thereby be forced into birth control, abortion, or sterilization. Yet what makes this worst of all is that because cases like these involve people with disabilities, next to no one will step forward and say that this is wrong.

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