No to Coerced Vasectomy

by Wesley J. Smith

A Virgnia plea deal is coercing a man into a vasectomy. From the CBS story:

A Virginia man who has fathered children with several women has agreed to get a vasectomy to reduce his prison term by up to five years in a child endangerment case that has evoked the country’s dark history of forced sterilization.

None of the charges against Jessie Lee Herald, 27, involved a sexual offense. Shenandoah County assistant prosecutor Ilona White said her chief motive in making the extraordinarily unusual offer was keeping Herald from fathering more than the seven children he has by at least six women. “He needs to be able to support the children he already has when he gets out,” she said, adding that Herald and the state both benefit from the deal, first reported by the Northern Virginia Daily.

There may be–nay, is–good cause for not wanting Herald to sire any more children. But coercing someone into surgery and sterilization as part of a criminal justice case is just plain wrong.

This isn’t the same as force-feeding prisoners on hunger strikes, which I support if and when their health is materially compromised or their lives endangered. That is about protecting health and welfare of the prisoner, which is the job of the prison authorities.

This is using surgery as a form of punishment and/or a utilitarian benefit to society. We should not go down that road.