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Orwell would be proud

The New York Times reports on a program that offers drug addicts $200 if they agree to get sterilized or use long-term birth control. It seems like a completely unobjectionable program: it's a private program, and hence completely voluntary. And, assuming the program is effective at all -- because if it isn't, why worry about it -- it reduces the number of babies born to drug-addicted parents. Win-win. The recipients benefit, and society benefits.

And yet, the predictable crowd is unhappy with it:

"The program is fundamentally incompatible with a health care policy that respects a woman's right to choose," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "It certainly raises policy concerns for government entities to be providing referrals to this program or endorsing it in any way."
That's such doublespeak that I don't even know where to begin. Offering people a choice is incompatible with the "right to choose?" Huh? There's only one way to interpret that: when she talks about "respecting" a woman's right to choose, she means exactly the opposite: that she has no respect whatsoever for women being able to make choices, and assumes that they'll make the wrong ones if given the opportunity.

And you've got to love the gratuitous invocation of Godwin's law, by the way:

"What she's doing is suggesting there are certain neighborhoods where it is dangerous for some people to be reproducing," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. "It suggests they are not worthy of reproducing. It is very much like the eugenics history in America. The Nazis said if you just sterilized the sick people and Jews you would improve the economy."
Uh, I could be mistaken, but I seem to recall that the Nazis started a world war and used poison gas as their preferred method of birth control. They didn't pay volunteers $200.

And it may be politically incorrect to say so, but what exactly is wrong with suggesting that drug addicts who are willing to get sterilized for $200 aren't worthy of reproducing? Do we really have to pretend that all people, no matter how irresponsible, make equally good parents? If a woman recognizes that she is not in position to raise a child, and chooses to ensure that this won't happen (and make some money at the same time), is that really something to be upset about?


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Comments (4)

Andrew Lazarus:

Darn. I thought the 'predictable crowd' would be anti-choice activists. Instead it's the Cult-of-the-Loser sect (with which I usually agree).

Henry Cohen:

Your criticisms of Donna Lieberman's remarks are correct if one takes her remarks too literally, rather than as rhetorical. Yes, the program she criticizes doesn't literally deny the right to choose, and, yes, unlike the Nazi program, it is voluntary. But whom are you kidding? The program seems designed to take advantage of addicts' need for drugs by giving them a paltry sum -- enough for their next hit -- in exchange for sacrificing their right to reproduce permanently or for the long term. (I assume that "long-term birth control" refers to a surgical procedure that can be undone only by surgery.) No one but an addict would give up their right to reproduce for $200. Sponsors of the program may may not mean to imply that addicts are not worthy of reproducing, but that does not seem an unreasonable inference. Perhaps they should distribute condoms to them instead.

You've failed to notice that the obviously feminist respondents to this story think that the right to choose belongs only to women.

What about men? Do they count as humans?

Apparently not.

Ryan Waxx:

The difficulty, I think, is that when a person has little or no money, they might reasonably be viewed as having little, or limited choices.

Assume, for a moment, that someone who is 'going clean' needs the money to eat. If the choice is between sterilization and famishment, then it could be reasonably said that there is no choice involved.

Would it be legal for someone to sell their freedom for food money? That's not unthinkable: A similar system used to exist and it was called debt slavery.

Perhaps there are cases in which a debtor-slave would be better off than a homeless person might, but I don't think that's coming back anytime soon.

The point I am trying to make is that there are limits to the 'choices' you may ethically make to a captive audience.

Another example of this point is that we do not allow drugs to be tested on inmates, even voluntarily in exchange for priveleges.


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