There's a responsibility that comes with having a girl. You know you need to teach her how to respect her own body. You know you need to encourage her to take responsibility for her actions, but also to want to. Her body. Her choices.
This is the job of the mother of a daughter. And so it's hard to read about the grandma in England petitioning the courts to have her pregnant daughter sterilized. Hard to read because the mom known only as Mrs. P didn't get to teach her daughter to take responsibility for her actions.
According to the Guardian, Mrs. P.'s daughter is mentally disabled. She is 21, has a baby who her mom already supports, and now she has another one on the way. With a C-section already scheduled, Mrs. P. has told the courts now is the time to act to cause the least amount of harm to her daughter. During the C-section, the doctors can perform a tubal ligation.
It's a terrifying scenario that goes against everything I, as a feminist, have been taught about women and reproductive freedom. And yet, I can't help understanding where Mrs. P. stands. Because one of the chief reasons I support reproductive freedom is that a mother should not bring a child into this world who she can't support.
When a woman says she had an abortion because she couldn't financially, physically, or emotionally care for the fetus, I get it. We come to different conclusions, but the irony is I agree with the pro-life side in this case. It's about the fetus' best interests.
Now apply that logic to the case in England. A woman who cannot possibly care for her children becomes pregnant again and again. Is it fair to the child to allow her to make babies? In a "women with mental disabilities have rights too" sense, yes. I'm loathe to say a woman is not really a woman because she has a disability. And yet, we take away rights of the disabled if they negatively affect others all the time. Do we give the blind a driver's license? The rights of Mrs. P.'s daughter are important, but what happens to the rights of her future children?
The court is still debating whether Mrs. P.'s daughter has the cognitive abilities to determine when she needs contraception to prevent future pregnancies. Whether she's sterilized will come down to that, but it won't happen in time for a C-section tubal.
What do you think of this case? When do we lose the right to procreate? Ever?
Image via Hafdis H/Flickr