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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Virginia Man Agrees to Get Vasectomy as Part of Plea Deal

A while ago I blogged about a case where an Ohio court upheld a court order that a man was prohibited from fathering any children while he was on probation for five years (unless he paid off about $100,000 in overdue child support). Virginia just took this practice to the next level. From the North Virginia Daily:

An Edinburg man will undergo a vasectomy as part of an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to child endangerment, hit and run driving and driving on a suspended license.
. . . 
The agreement calls for Herald to undergo the vasectomy within a year of his release from prison. The agreement also requires that Herald not reverse the vasectomy while he is on probation. 
. . .

[Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, Ilona ] White said her motivation in offering the vasectomy option to Herald stemmed from concerns raised at sentencing hearings in earlier cases about how many children have been traced to him from different women. 
"It was primarily due to the fact he had seven or eight children, all by different women, and we felt it might be in the commonwealth's interest for that to be part of the plea agreement," White said of the vasectomy provision.
This is hardly the first Virginia case concerning sterilization. Virginia is the origin of the infamous Buck v. Bell case -- where the Supreme Court affirmed a judgment compelling the sterilization of a woman who had been deemed "feebleminded." From Justice Holmes' opinion:
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
While the Virginia law permitting compulsory sterilization was later overturned, Buck has never been formally overruled. But if I were an attorney trying to convince an appellate court (or anybody) to agree with my legal argument, I would hesitate to cite Buck v. Bell. And if Buck v. Bell were the best support for my case, I would certainly have some second thoughts regarding the merits and desirability of my position.

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