Critical Resistance: Prisons as a Tool of Reproductive Oppression

Prisons as a Tool of Reproductive Oppression: Cross Movement Strategies for Gender Justice

Critical Resistance 10 Conference

Nerissa Kunakemakorn, Justice Now
The Prison Industrial Complex facilitates the destruction of reproductive capacity in three ways:
1) Overuse of hysterectomy and ovarectomy (often nonconsensually)
2) Poor reproductive healthcare provided to people in prisons
3) Imprisonment during the majority of one’s reproductive years
More on #1:
-Often these radical procedures are used for fibroids and ovarian cysts, at much higher rates than on the outside
-There are documented cases of sterilization abuse, particularly after childbirth
-The new “gender responsive” prison strategies even discuss the cost effectiveness of sterilization after birth
-Some incarcerated people have been given hysterectomy’s for cancers that were later found to be non-existent
-One doctor told a “lifer” (person sentenced to life in prison) that her ovary removal didn’t matter since she was going to be in prison forever
-This is very closely connected with a history of sterilization abuse in communities of color (Native American women, Puerto Rican women, Mexican women in LA) More on this here.
-These procedures are disproportionately documented among people of color in prison
-Consent issues around sterilization procedures for people in prison (can someone in prison ever give consent? are there always coercive conditions?)
Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Population and Development Program

In September of this year, a Texas woman was ordered to stop having children as a condition of her probation. The judge argued that since if she had been in prison for those ten years, she wouldn’t have been able to get pregnant, it was a reasonable condition. If she becomes pregnant, she can be put back in prison for violating her parole. Clear connection between the prison industrial complex and population control.
Gabriel Arkles, Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Trans people face a whole different set of problems and barriers in prison. Not only are they targeted for incarceration (because of poverty, sex work, transphobia and racism) but once in prison they face particular challenges. Trans people are placed in prison not based on what their identification says, how they identify or how they present. Instead its usually based on what is between someone’s legs. This puts trans people at risk for abuse, sexual or otherwise. Much of this logic (about not putting a trans woman in a woman’s prison) is about not wanting there to be a possibility for pregnancy between prisoners. Again more evidence of the population control philosophy, and proof that they don’t care about personal safety (or even preventing sexual activity) but just about preventing reproduction.
Other speakers: Maria Nakae, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice and Miss Major Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project

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  1. Violet Moore
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Then there’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “America’s Toughest Sheriff” who is pro-life because his mother died in childbirth while having him. So guess what? He files injuctions to block abortions to women prisoners based on his own personal feelings toward the subject. Which gets him sued. Which costs my county money. Which really pisses me off on a variety of levels.

  2. middlechild
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Re that case in Texas: are you kidding me, Feministing?
    “The order was for Felicia Salazar, 20, who admitted to failing to provide protection and medical care to her then-19-month-old daughter last year. The girl suffered broken bones and other injuries when she was beaten by her father, Roberto Alvarado, 25, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Alvarado and Salazar relinquished their parental rights, and the child, who has recovered, was placed in foster care.”
    Under her watch the daughter she already had was beaten by her father and then, unless the article from the link itself is lying, didn’t get her medical care.
    Yes, we should be screaming and rioting in the streets for people like that to have more children. Absolutely.
    What’s the point? What’s the point of even talking about child welfare if this is what feminists believe? Abolition prisons and police, and then advocate for people like this to have MORE kids to kick to the foster system? I suppose it’s OUR fault–we should shower this woman with extra income and counseling so she’ll be the parent she couldn’t be the first time around.
    That doesn’t mean I don’t support rehabilitation and ATTEMPTS at family/parental counseling, but to me you seem to be making here is tantamount to advocating that a sexually abusive parent be allowed to conceive (and raise?) children again as well. Why should this woman be encouraged to have more children, given the likelihood that her other children will have to choose between the state and a woman with a record of neglect?
    If she has bodily sovereignty, can I refuse to support her fertility choices once the children are born (and likely lost to foster care)?
    Should someone like this–someone who the state saw as an unfit parent for child number 1–be having MORE children, so she can do it again?
    Wait–let’s blame society. Maybe she’s poor; she’s young; maybe SHE was abused. Let her keep having as many kids as she wants, even though there is documented evidence she is a neglectful parent. The state foster care system has already undertaken the burden of caring for her FIRST kid–or should we protest that the battered 19-month old was removed, too? This site DOESN’T seem to distinguish between the right to be pregnant and the obligation to be a parent for the children you bring into the world.
    Courts can keep abusive and neglectful pet owners from ever having animals again. What’s the difference here? Both pets and children are helpless dependents.
    At some point, that fetus will no longer be a part of the woman’s body, so don’t tell me the RESPONSIBILITY to parent is equal with bodily sovereignty.
    I’m horrified.

  3. middlechild
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    3) Imprisonment during the majority of one’s reproductive years”
    I don’t agree with all the reasons women go to prison, and can accept that the circumstances or laws may be unjust or that their may be extenuating/mitigating factors.
    Short of those circumstances, cry me a river. If you commit a violent crime (beyond self defense) or serious drug crime and are “imprisoned during your most fertile years”–could you not say the same thing for, say, a rapist, or a young man who beats his girlfriend or spouse? I suppose you’re complaining on their behalf as well?
    Good to know–apparently young feminists should feel neutral or even supportive of potentially violent or serious drug offenders becoming new parents. Especially considering this country currently has a FANTASTIC means of dealing with the children these women likely have already and are leaving behind.
    How the hell can we talk about protecting women and children from violence, demand that the state hold criminals accountable for violence, demand that–for better and worse–women are treated like men (any mention of THEIR reproduction?), and then post things like this and the prison/police abolition post?
    What la-la land are you living in while the rest of us are worrying about getting the police, the law, and communities to take the intractable problem of violence–sexual assault and everything else–to even take these things seriously in the first place?
    Or are “prison/police abolition” just code words for LOWER imprisonment rates (i.e. decriminalization of certain drugs/quantities of drugs) and greater focus on socioeconomic causes of crime on the street? B/c child abuse, neglect, and parents who have children they really have no plans to raise sure as hell doesn’t help.
    Hold the individual rapist responsible, but pardon women….because they’re women? Is that it?

  4. Posted September 28, 2008 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Middlechild, disrespectful much? I think you should educate yourself on the history of forced sterilization so you can get a handle on why it concerns so many people. You should also probably not suggest that writers here are living in “la-la land.”
    It seems to me like you’re intentionally misreading the post just to have something to overreact to. It’s… annoying.

  5. Emily
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know JennyDreadful, I think middlechild understood the post fine. I kind of agree with her. If we fix the many problems of our prison system, and only people who should be there are (those that have committed violent crimes not in self-dense), then certain circumstances such as not siring/conceiving while physically removed from society where one has the ability to do so (I guess inmates should be able to have their sperm/eggs harvested for their spouses on the outside if they really want), that’s not societies problem, just one of the consequences of their actions- such as doing a dumb stunt that results in having ones testicles accidentally removed.
    Obviously actual sterilization which has been and is a real problem is not OK. But being locked-up for a number of years(if the system were to hypothetically work correctly and that inmate was correctly convicted with an appropriate sentence)that coincide with ones reproductive years is really not a human rights issue. Same as if someone wants to reproduce but cannot find anyone to do it with, not societies problem (unless there is sperm/egg bank discrimination).
    Anyway, you cant expect to post something about drastically changing a system that is the only legal current way for individuals to seek justice and protection without having some people strongly disagree.

  6. Posted September 28, 2008 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    The United States accounts for about 5% of the world’s population and almost a quarter of the world’s prison population. The situation is fucked.
    All that Miriam did was suggest that the fact that so many people are spending their most fertile years locked up was problematic. She never suggested that violent criminals shouldn’t be spent to jail so that they can remain free and have babies instead. I’m having a hard time believing that you’re not being intentionally obtuse in order to attribute radical ideas to Miriam that she didn’t espouse, all because you’re made uncomfortable by the idea that the prison industrial complex should be dismantled.

  7. middlechild
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Jenny, I don’t see any distinction between “violent” and “nonviolent” offenders up there, which is why I’m so wary of “prison abolition.” Prison reform; decriminalization of drugs;less discrimination in sentencing; addressing background factors of crime (i.e. poverty/lack of education with the drug trade); fighting prison rape, abuse, and failure to protect inmates from inmate-on-inmate violence; all for that.
    Miriam did not EXPLICITLY espouse anything, but she used a case of a CHILD ABUSER as part of this post.
    This is why I’m so uncomfortable with this site and mainstream, young feminist discourse–the notion of “bodily sovereignty” is totally divorced from the RESPONSIBILITY of being a parent. Abortion and contraception involve only one actor; at some point, when it comes to “bodily sovereignty” and the right to be pregnant despite being a person with a history of abusing or neglecting children or an addict who uses, drinks or smokes during pregnancy (without any plan for post-birth natal treatment, any accountability at all, there is an INVOLUNTARY helpless second party here–the child–that feminism apparently must ignore…unless we all agree to blame society, not the people who brought the children into the world. We can’t even acknowledge that a woman charged and dealt with by the legal system for standing by while her child was battered, and then failing to see that she got medical care–for whatever reason she was neglectful–might not be the best parent.
    The implication is that she will “have more children” and….the state will be responsible for the welfare of one after the next? She’ll keep the kids? What?
    Have you ever been a foster care kid, Jenny? Do you think it’s a walk in the park for kids? How long do you think before we have an adoptive/foster care system that provides an environment similarly conducive to child development as a stable parental environment?
    This young woman failed. Any more children she has will (if left with her) likely not fare so well or will be the responsibility of the state, because the two people who conceived the first child don’t DESERVE to be parents.
    You want to talk about “rudeness”, Jenny? I made pretty clear I have problems with the “prison industrial complex” in previous posts and the last one.
    As often as not this site seems to advocate license when it comes to conflicts between people who have children (yeah, just b/c you’re sex organs work doesn’t mean you’re a “parent”) and taxpayers who inevitably shoulder PRIMARY blame, even when the “parents” are criminals.
    She’s NOT being sterilized. She can still have children, but in the same way she kind of blew it with kids, a drunk driver who hits someone and leaves the victim at the accident to die probably shouldn’t be able to drive for a while. Nobody is gluing that drunk driver’s lips together.
    Based on previous posts on this site, we’ll hold rapists responsible for their behavior first, but if there’s a woman involved (even, in this case, in child abuse),fault the state. Got it.
    I’m waiting for a post protesting when female OR male child molesters are “locked up during their reproductive years” or when chemical/surgical castration is a part of parole/treatment for sex offenders.

  8. queerbandit
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Again more evidence of the population control philosophy, and proof that they don’t care about personal safety (or even preventing sexual activity) but just about preventing reproduction.
    Although there is a lot wrong with the prison industrial complex…I find it difficult to disagree with taking steps to prevent pregnancy among prisoners. The whole point of prison is that you lose some of your rights. Should there be a pregnancy, what becomes of the child? Are they raised in a prison? Shuttled off to foster care? Keep in mind both of these are at the taxpayers expense…
    To be sure, nonconsensual sterilization is horrifying and should be banned. And if you want to discuss how communities of color are unfairly targeted by the criminal justice system, or how nonviolent drug offenses shouldn’t be punished by jail time, or how corporations are taking advantage of a new form of slavery by using prison labor I will agree 100%. But preventing pregnancy while in prison just seems like a good idea.

  9. AliCat
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Middlechild makes many valid points when pointing out the blindness in advocating across the board reproductive rights for all women, including those in jail or guilty of child abuse, while (conveniently) not acknowledging that those reproductive rights come with responsibilities to any resultant child who is born.
    That a woman is incarcerated during her “reproductive years” is a non-issue. If a woman is found guilty of a crime and sentenced to a prison term while of reproductive age, then that is how it is. It is not a conspiracy. What alternative is suggested? Should a woman be able to postpone her sentence so that she can have children and once fertility ceases, she then serves her sentence? What if a woman’s children are not independent by this stage? Who then takes on their responsibility? Also, if we are to treat the sexes equally, males are theoretically fertile their whole lives, so should they be able to postpone their sentences indefinitely? Also, are a woman’s reproductive years considered more valuable simply because of her fertility, than the her post-menopausal years? Isn’t such an assumption anti-feminist?
    I also find it hard to reconcile the hard-line attitude of this site towards men who commit violent or sexual crimes with this lenient approach towards women. I agree that a lot of women (and men) are in jail as a result of committing non-violent crime, and there may be more suitable avenues of punishment than jail for this group. However, in cases of child abuse and neglect, a serious crime has been committed resulting in the harm of another human being. It makes no sense to be advocating the proper punishment of men who commit violent and sexual crimes against women, but at the same time be protective of a woman who commits crimes against a child. This is made even more nonsensical when it is her right to have more children which is being focused upon, when she has already proven that she is not fit to be a parent!
    Also, the father by default of being in jail, is denied his “reproductive rights”, because he actually has to serve his sentence in contrast to the mother. Because this is not explicit, as is the case with the probationary conditions of the mother, we hear nothing about the denial of his reproductive rights. I certainly do not believe he has any given the enormity of his crime and while he is in jail serving his sentence. Why should it be any different for his partner just because she is female?
    While the focus is on the the judge making it a condition of her probation that she not have any more children for the term of her sentence, the fact that he gave her probation instead of being in jail for ten years is overlooked. Perhaps the leniency of this in the light of her crime needs to be considered instead of shouting about her reproductive right to produce more children she probably cannot care for.
    I would not deny that the prison system is in need of close examination, and perhaps restructuring. If women are coerced into undergoing unnecessary surgical procedures which impact on their fertility without full consent, then those engaging in such practices need to be held accountable. The over-representation in jails of women of certain ethnicity, race and social class also needs thorough examination. That such women are more likely to end up in jail in the first place indicates their social disadvantage compounded by a court system based on privilege.
    These are the real issues.
    Diverting attention from inadequacies in the judicial system by taking on the cause of one individual’s reproductive rights while at the same time ignoring her parenting record, lessens the credibility of those who fight for the rights of all women and men in jail.
    While the police, judicial system and running of jails need to be transparent and accountable, and there is undeniable room for improvement, the suggestion in this series of posts that the answer is to do away with police and jails altogether is out of touch with reality. No real alternative is suggested beyond their replacement with community groups with no explanation of how these groups would act, their powers and to whom they would be held accountable. As JohnJ pointed out on the post about police/jail abolition, one only has to look overseas to countries with inadequate police/judicial systems to see how crime flourishes, and the power vacuum is often filled by organized crime.

  10. Brianna G
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I have absolutely no problem with sterilization for any individual convicted of abusing or neglecting their own children, and forcing any person in the prison system who might have conjugal visits to be on birth control. The unfairness to the child trumps the unfairness to the mother in that case, because too many women would chose not to abort.
    Yes, if a woman gets convicted of abusing or neglecting her child in a particularly horrible way, she should be sterilized, as should every man who does such a thing. Are there problems in the system that need to be fixed? Of course. But if we can prevent 20 women from creating more children to abuse and neglect than I can let the 21st woman slide, because the net benefit is worth it, especially if we are actively working to fix those problems.
    And if they spend their fertile years locked up– so what? They can adopt later if it means so much to them. GIVING BIRTH SHOULD NOT BE A RIGHT. It should be a privilege. This is why we are so overpopulated today. WE need to rethink how we think of children. They are a responsibility, not a right. NOT having children is a right; HAVING them is a responsibility.
    Until there are laws saying as much, the practices need to be stopped because they are illegal and poorly maintained, but at the same time– we as a people need to stop thinking of having children as a human right, because that is EXACTLY why so many children are unwanted, unloved, abused. Reproductive rights don’t mean you have the right to abuse a child, they mean that you have the right to prevent yourself from having children you cannot care for and to chose when you are ready to have a child. And in some cases, I think it’s reasonable for humanity to look on an individual of either gender who has truly and completely abused that right and say, “You will never be ready to have a child.” They abused their ability to have reproductive freedom. They therefore lost it, same as a rapist should lose their right to be able to have sexual intercourse.
    I will say,though, that I agree something needs to be done about transsexuals in the prison system. A simple solution to me seems to be to let them pick which prison they are in, give them a private room, and pay for any gender-changing surgery they want as a way to guarantee there will be no pregnancies, since nine times out of ten the treatments needed result in sterility anyway.

  11. kaylagrrl
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Uh, sorry, child birth IS a right. Not an unconditional one, but a right nonetheless. If it’s not a right, but a privelege, who gets to decide which of us is worthy of parenthood?
    And to the case of neglect mentioned above (I suspect only because it happened recently and has made a blip on the news radar due to the oddity of the terms of probation), I’d like us all to remember the case of Hedda Nussbaum, whose daughter Lisa, was murdered at the hands of Joel Steinberg. Many people held her accountable for the actions of her husband–many still think she was culpable for not “protecting” her child, even though she had also been severly abused by Steinberg.
    I’m not arguing this is the same in the case cited above, but the abuse of the mother is often completely overlooked when a child/ren are also abused. It’s not OK to lump all cases together and pronounce one determinate sentence of all apparently similar crimes (e.g. sterilization for all people convicted of certain crimes)–lest we end up with more “3 strikes” type laws!

  12. middlechild
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Brianna. This is why I can’t call myself a “feminist”, b/c dominant feminist discourse right now sees having children as a RIGHT, not a responsibility. It’s bothered me ever since I started reading this site.
    And this–”Clear connection between the prison industrial complex and population control”–regarding that Texas case–I’m speechless. Yes, she’s the victim.
    I’m furious. I’m furious that this is it–either this extreme or the GOP dehumanize-women-as-baby-machines/marriage-as-panacea mantra, that the voices leading this discourse and potential policy implications actually seem to think a case like this is neutral.
    There IS something wrong with the total lack of distinction between the right to control one’s uterus and the obligations one has to a (potential) child.
    Did the person who posted that case as an example of abuse (the child abuser wasn’t sterilized, and she avoided the same sentence as her husband–no harm was done to her body) even read the damn case, or does that person agree that people like this should not only be granted a comparatively lenient sentence AND have more children who will inevitably be dependent on the state/taxpayers? (I’ll bet all of you would switch places at this moment with a pubescent kid in the foster care system, eh? Apparently it’s not big deal, which is why a woman who probably shouldn’t have custody of kids anymore should be ENCOURAGED to keep having them).

  13. middlechild
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    t’s not OK to lump all cases together and pronounce one determinate sentence of all apparently similar crimes (e.g. sterilization for all people convicted of certain crimes)–lest we end up with more “3 strikes” type laws!”
    Again–the woman in the Texas case was NOT sterilized. And while I am aware this woman may have been abused by her own husband (there are too many cases like this) and there may be reasons she did not take her daughter to the hospital–does that mean she should have MORE children?
    “On Sept. 5, state District Judge Charlie Baird sentenced Salazar, who had no criminal history, to 10 years of probation after she reached a plea bargain with prosecutors. In Texas, judges set conditions of probation. In addition to requiring Salazar to perform 100 hours of community service and to undergo a mental health assessment and setting other typical conditions, Baird told Salazar not to have any more children.”
    Especially considering those children will likely become wards of the state. Her husband (again, what about HIS “reproduction”?) got prison time. She got probation.
    I apologize to Miriam for the last post/point regarding the foster care system, but my point is, I can’t reconcile this notion of “pro-choice”–if Felicia Salazar is being used a victim of an illegitimate legal/bodily penalty–with the standard of personal culpability for one’s behavior (be it with sexual assault, active child abuse, or, if it comes down to whether someone should be ENCOURAGED to have more kids, child neglect).
    “I’m not arguing this is the same in the case cited above, but the abuse of the mother is often completely overlooked when a child/ren are also abused.”
    I am aware that there are cases where all the family members experience violence. The parents hurt each and they hurt their kids. When are adults responsible for their actions? Doesn’t the balance of power and culpability change A LITTLE when a child is involved?
    I don’t know about anyone else, kaylagirl, or about “lumping cases together,” but I’m specifically addressing THIS case–Felicia Salazar’s– and offended that THIS was used as in an overall thread about the injustices of the criminal justice/prison system, which is a worthy cause that seems more or less ignored among policymakers currently. I am not saying she should be forcibly sterilized, but no, I don’t think a woman who, for whatever reason, failed her first child and SHOULDN’T have custody of more children should be ENCOURAGED to have more kids. That seems to be the implication here.
    And again–so if it’s one’s right to carry a child (perhaps one exposed to alcohol, drugs or nicotine during the pregnancy), can I refuse to pay taxes to the welfare system on the off chance or the foster care system? No. At one point does not blaming children for the actions of their parents (including the “decision” to eschew birth control or to purposely conceive) become distinguishable from holding parents accountable on a MINIMAL level for the kids they bring into the world and their fertility choices? This isn’t even about a matter of “minimum standard of care” for poor and struggling families.
    The post uses a woman who dodged prison and is free to conceive again (again–she wasn’t sterilized–it is NOT a blind example of “population control” as described above, she neglected her first child and is unfit to have custody of any other children she bears) as a pure victim.
    Is it EVER relevant to bring up the existence of a child when discussing the conflicts around “childbearing as a right”? Who is responsible for those children?
    The foster care system. The state welfare system–generous or stingy. The taxpayers, who had no involvement in the conception of a child into a family where the parents may be unable to support themselves, or else, themselves and the kids they already have.
    Where are the parents here? Are they simply victims of blind circumstance?
    Should a woman who didn’t face prison time for even failing to seek medical treatment for her own battered daughter be encouraged to have children or not?
    Is it just taken for granted that the blame for their welfare afterward falls on the rest of us, considering parents like this either yield or lose their children (in this case, for legitimate reasons) to the state?
    Does no one contributing to the the Critical Resistance threads see the problem with that, or am I fool for even expecting some acknowledgment of the individual parents’ obligations and responsibilities to their children?

  14. Brianna G
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    kaylagrrl: Biologically, we cannot say “you have to apply for parenthood” but we CAN say, “If you do XYZ, we’re not going to let you have children any more.”
    If there was evidence the woman was abused, then first of all, a temporary hold on having children would be a good thing for her, as it would give her time to recover from the abuse and maybe learn how to prevent it in the future; second of all, I am more concerned with cases where it’s more clear cut– where they didn’t just stand by, but actively abused, or where they neglected their child. Not getting a child medical care is neglect. Maybe she was scared because she was abused, but yet, that doesn’t change the end result, and until she can PROVE that she will not let another child of hers be hurt she doesn’t need children. If I neglect or abuse my children because I am schizophrenic, I will have every child taken away from me shortly after birth if they can until I can PROVE that I have my condition under control and I will take care of them. Why is it different for a person who is abused? The relevant issue is not if the woman “meant” it or not, it’s if she did it or not, it’s the result.
    Courts should decide who cannot have children based on carefully decided criteria that is uniform for all races, cultures, and classes. Maybe if people started thinking of the ability to have children as a privilege that they could lose, they wouldn’t treat it so callously.
    middlechild: I consider myself a feminist. I consider the idea that child birth is a right to NOT be feminist. Many feminists are still able to understand that the rights of children who are living and born DO still trump the rights of older adults who should know better, and understand that for women, the “right” to have children willy-nilly usually leads to women having more children than they can take care of, and thus losing their own independence in the process. After all, in severely overpopulated cultures throughout history, two things appeared– women start to become increasingly devalued and baby girls start to be killed, as a way to control the population effectively. Read “Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches,” there is a great chapter on how the devaluation of women and the infanticide of baby girls arises when the population grows unchecked.

  15. Brianna G
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    middlechild, it frustrates me no end that people still see childbearing as a right in a world where so many children are abandoned.
    You are allowed to own a gun, if you don’t abuse the privilege. You have a RIGHT to not own a gun. Same thing. You are allowed to have children, but you have the RIGHT not to, as in, we shouldn’t force you to HAVE children, but if you do and you abuse that freedom, we can take it away because it is NOT a right because it interferes with someone else’s rights. Not having children only affects one person– the adult. HAVING children automatically affects two people– the adult and the child, and thus, must be regulated so that the “rights” of the parent don’t remove all “rights” from the children.

  16. middlechild
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    middlechild: I consider myself a feminist. I consider the idea that child birth is a right to NOT be feminist. Many feminists are still able to understand that the rights of children who are living and born DO still trump the rights of older adults who should know better, and understand that for women, the “right” to have children willy-nilly usually leads to women having more children than they can take care of, and thus losing their own independence in the process. After all, in severely overpopulated cultures throughout history, two things appeared– women start to become increasingly devalued and baby girls start to be killed, as a way to control the population effectively.”
    Agreed. I got ahead of myself.
    Still feel bewildered…or horrified… because I still hold the organization linked in the Texas case (I have no doubt it does important work) is an example of the “feminist discourse” and crucial actors who are actually resisting the current political tide against contraception, birth control, and wishy-washy enforcement of budgets/laws to deal with violence….including violence against children at the hands of parents.
    Addressing the other commenters and the general thread–
    If those neglectful parents are abused, fine. Mitigating circumstances to be acknowledged when it comes to sentencing.
    Doesn’t mean a parent who will lose custody of the kids they have (and SHOULD lose custody of them) should be encouraged to have MORE kids and I’m still repulsed that this site presented it that way.

  17. kaylagrrl
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Taking away the children from an abused mother doesn’t help either of them, especially if the mother wasn’t actively abusing her children. The “temporary hold on having children would be a good thing for her, as it would give her time to recover from the abuse and maybe learn how to prevent it in the future” assumes that 1) the abuse WAS PREVENTABLE BY HER, and her actions can prevent her from being abused again–way to blame the victim and make her culpable for her own victimization; and 2) that somehow removing children from their mother (who in my example hasn’t actively abused the kids) is beneficial to the children (and the mother). I don’t think either can ever be assumed to be the case, especially to an outsider completely unfamiliar with the dynamics of the particular situation.
    Regarding the Salazar case in general: all of us only know what is being presented in the paper. And we all know that news media is infallible and always willing/able to detail the entirety of familial abuse in a single case! I’m not defending her inactions, but considering what I know about CPS in Texas, it is interesting that the only time this judge levelled this kind of control over the defendent’s body was against a Latina woman. This is the point–the judge admits he’s never done it before (and as much as I hate to put it this way, the child is alive, so the situation could’ve been worse), but in the one case where he prohibits a woman from having children, it’s a Latina without any prior convictions, who DIDN’T ACTIVELY ABUSE THE CHILD. None of us know WHY she didn’t seek medical treatment for her daughter, and NO ONE IS ARGUING THIS IS OK!
    And your statements that “the “right” to have children willy-nilly usually leads to women having more children than they can take care of, and thus losing their own independence in the process.” is so frickin paternalistic, I don’t know where to begin… Seriously, the way to give women independence is to decide who can have children, when, and how many for them? And I know/work with SOOO many women who have children willy-nilly. For the record, I’ve worked in anti-sexual/domestic violence services MY ENTIRE ADULT LIFE.
    Methinks the self-righteous ought to do some unpacking of personal privelege before proclaiming they know best for all women, in all situations everywhere!
    Laws and the inforcement of such laws are complicated, to say the least. Sweeping proclamations are rarely, if ever, helpful in sorting through idiocyncracies and nuance. But don’t let that stop y’all!

  18. middlechild
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    No, she did not actively abuse the child. She stood by. And she did not take the child for medical care.
    Maybe she had been abused herself by the father, didn’t know where a hospital was, was worried about her immigration status (if she illegal) being revealed, whatever.
    And because of those circumstances (and this being her first charge), she was given a lenient sentence.
    You’re right, I’m going on the article as it’s presented ON THE ADVOCACY SITE ITSELF. For whatever reason, she neglected the first child and there was no evidence presented a NEW child would benefit under her custody. Sometimes the state DOES terminate parental rights for a LEGITIMATE reason.
    “Seriously, the way to give women independence is to decide who can have children, when, and how many for them?”
    If you’ve worked with abused women/children that’s admirable. But how “independent” can someone be if the primary parties held PRIMARILY culpable in the welfare of that first, second, sixth child (born addicted to drugs, perhaps, when Mom has no access or plans for her own/her child’s treatment) are the taxpayers and the state?
    There has to be a balance between wanting a stronger safety net and also demanding personal accountability from those who necessitate resources like foster care or TANF (or AFDC). The undergoing ideology here is that generosity of funds AND general efforts to generate funding and assemble administrators and systems to deliver these services should be taken for granted as limitless.
    I just don’t have anything to add. This is an example of a case where this woman’s “right” to bear children will inevitably result in her doing so at the expense of the state and there is no compelling evidence presented in the article (or the website linked) that Salazar SHOULD have of custody of another child; that’s the conclusion I come to, that any future children would be handed over to the state (at least while she’s on probation).
    The right of bodily sovereignty should come with individual parents’ responsibility for the children THEY “choose” to conceive (again, short of rape, a coercive relationship, BC failure or sabotage) that will result if they bring a pregnancy to term, just as the right to congregate with of one’s peers for the purposes of sexual activity should come with the responsibility to respect a partner’s right to refuse at any point of the exchange.

  19. Brianna G
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    “the abuse WAS PREVENTABLE BY HER, and her actions can prevent her from being abused again–way to blame the victim and make her culpable for her own victimization”
    As an abuse survivor, having another child would be an easy way for her to get trapped into the cycle again. She needs time to come to understand the abuse and recover from it, adn she can’t easily do that. He could have dumped her in jail and she would have suffered and not been able to get help, and instead, with this system, she will likely be able to appeal this once she recovers from the trauma.
    Neglect isn’t active abuse, but it is still abuse. The problem with the woman is that she had oppourtunities when she could have taken her children to the doctor and treated them for their injuries from their father’s abuse and she did not, and denying medical care is abusive. If the children could get medical care with another situation, they would be better off there. I don’t like removing kids from their home, but medical neglect is a good reason. However, I think we should also do some preventative medcine and keep people from having their kids taken away by preventing there from being repeat offenders.
    He was lenient to the woman, he understood that she was not the active abuser but also that she could not simply have her crimes ignored. I think his judgement was good for this woman, and her best chance of recovering from the abuse without allowing anyone else to be caught in the crossfire.
    I know many women who were coerced or encouraged to have children by others in their lives, and I know many, many women who suffered a great deal for having them, especially if they were younger. The way to give them freedom is to turn parenting into something that is not a RIGHT and not something they SHOULD be taking advantage of, but rather a PRIVELEGE that they can take advantage of when they are ready. I know many women who had children too early, on purpose, or who had them because their husbands wanted them, and were not ready for the commitment, and it took over their lives. Maybe they weren’t having 8 children but one child was usually enough to completely derail their life. The way to give women independence is to change the way we as a society veiw childrearing, to encourage women to consider the real impact having children has so when they make their own choice they do so in an informed manner.

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