By Charles C. W. Cooke
Here is a sentence I never wanted to read in an English newspaper: “Man with learning difficulties to be sterilised in unprecedented court ruling.” According to the Telegraph:
Mrs Justice Eleanor King, sitting in the Court of Protection, said there was “no question” of the 36-year-old having the mental capacity to use contraception and that it was “lawful and overwhelmingly in his best interests” to be sterilised.
The man, identified only as DE, and his long-term girlfriend who also has learning difficulties, had a son in 2010.
As a result, measures were taken to take to prevent another pregnancy and DE was required to be supervised at all times, effectively losing his limited but “hard-won” independence.
The consequences were “profound” for both families and the judge noted that the couple’s long-standing relationship “nearly broke under the strain, but remarkably weathered the storm”.
The last sentence is a chilling example of soulless utilitarianism; of the tendency to subjugate the human condition and the rights of man to the sum of their externalities. Even if she and the man’s carers are correct in their assessment, is it really the role of the judicial branch to determine whether a couple’s relationship “breaks” or not, or whether the consequences of a man’s having children are “profound” or immaterial? One is indeed welcome to be sterilized if that is what one wishes. But to be ordered?
For all the temptation to cry “Eugenics,” this is not quite H. G. Wells arguing for a regime that is
shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity […]and to check the procreation of base and servile types, of fear-driven and cowardly souls, of all that is mean and ugly and bestial in the souls, bodies, or habits of men.
Nevertheless, the legal precedent is worrying. There are many people in England who would presumably be more independent and have stronger relationships if they were unable to produce children. I’m by no means convinced that we want judges making the call as to who they are.
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