Inmates in White County, Tennessee now have the opportunity to shave 30 days off of their jail time if they participate in an elective birth control procedure, a move many are calling unethical eugenics and discriminatory.
General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield signed the controversial standing order on May 15, enforcing the program. Both men and women are eligible to participate in the program. The women receive a Nexplanon implant in their arm, which prevents pregnancy for a period of up to three years. The men receive a vasectomy. Both procedures are free and performed by the Tennessee Department of Health.
Judge Benningfield added that he hoped the measure would help break the cycle of repeat drug offenders who can’t afford child support and have trouble finding jobs.
“I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened with children. This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves. I understand it won’t be entirely successful, but if you reach two or three people, maybe that’s two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs. I see it as a win-win.”
District Attorney Bryant Dunaway spoke out against the ruling and instructed his staff to not make any arrangements involving the program. “Those decisions are personal in nature and I think that’s just something the court system should not encourage or mandate.”
The American Civil Liberties Union also released a statement vehemently opposed to the order.
“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional. Such a choice violates the fundamental constitutional right to reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity by interfering with the intimate decision of whether and when to have a child, imposing an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it. Judges play an important role in our community – overseeing individuals’ childbearing capacity should not be part of that role.”