Woman Fights Guardian Over Sterilization Request
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 18, 2005
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS--Like many women her age, 26-year-old Kirsten Johnson wants to get married someday and have a baby.
"I would love to have the opportunity to take my time taking care of a baby," she explained.
But Johnson has a developmental disability, and -- according to her guardian -- is not capable of having a baby nor taking care of a child.
Vera Howse, who is also Johnson's aunt, has sought legal permission in Cook County Probate Court to force her niece to undergo a tubal ligation, a form of surgery that would make it so Johnson could not get pregnant.
When she learned that her aunt wanted to have her sterilized against her will, Johnson asked for help from Equip for Equality, the state's federally-mandated protection and advocacy system.
"Our position is that we're dealing with a fundamental right," Byron Mason, an attorney for Equip for Equality, told the Chicago Tribune. "Regardless of whether a person has a disability, a person has a right to make certain fundamental decisions about their own body."
On August 11, Probate Judge James Riley ruled that birth control would be in Johnson's best interest. However, Riley put off the decision regarding sterilization until January, when a gynecologist is scheduled to report back as to whether Johnson can instead use other long-term birth control methods, such as intrauterine devices.
Experts told the Chicago Tribune that such cases, in which guardians ask for forced sterilizations, are rare.
"We always do a lot more before we would think about such an extreme or irreversible procedure," said Charles Golbert, a supervisor in the adult guardianship division at the Cook County Public Guardian.
"Judge sides with Illinois woman fighting forced sterilization" (Chicago Tribune via Belleville News-Democrat)