Judge orders drug addict to stop having children
Associated Press, Various newspapers in Canada and the U.S.A., Wednesday, January 5, 2005
ROCHESTER, New York (AP) -- A Family Court judge who last year stirred debate about parental responsibilities ordered a second drug-addicted woman to have no more children until she proves she can look after the seven she already has.
The 31-year-old mother, identified in court papers only as Judgette W., lost custody of her children, ranging in age from eight months to 12 years, in child-neglect hearings dating back to 2000. Six are in foster care at state expense and one lives with an aunt.
The youngest child and two others tested positive for cocaine at birth and all seven "were removed from her care and custody because she could not and did not take care of them," Judge Marilyn O'Connor said in a December 22 decision made public Tuesday.
"Because every child born deserves a mother and a father, or at the very least a mother or a father, this court is once again taking this unusual step of ordering this biological mother to conceive no more children until she reclaims her children from foster care or other caretakers," O'Connor wrote.
In a similar ruling last March, O'Connor ordered a drug-addicted, homeless mother of four to refrain from bearing children until she won back care of her children. The decision, the first of its kind in New York, is being appealed.
Wisconsin and Ohio have upheld similar rulings involving "deadbeat dads" who failed to pay child support. But in other states, judges have turned back attempts to interfere with a person's right to procreate.
O'Connor said she was not forcing contraception or sterilization on the mother, who had children with seven different men, nor requiring her to get an abortion should she become pregnant. But she warned that the woman could be jailed for contempt if she has another child.
The New York Civil Liberties Union maintained that the opinion cannot be enforced because it "tramples on a fundamental right -- the right to procreate."
"There is no question the circumstances of this case are deeply troubling," said the group's executive director, Donna Lieberman. "But ordering a woman under threat of jail not to have any more babies ... puts the court squarely in the bedroom. And that's no place for the government."
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