Fighting for Reproductive Justice as #freebritney Ignites Debate
The hashtag “#freebritney” has recently been flooding social media channels after the pop sensation claimed her 2008 court-mandated conservatorship withheld her from removing her intrauterine device, hindering her ability to reproduce, an issue which has been at the heart of many reproductive justice movements for decades.
“In Britney Spears’ case, an IUD can be removed, but the fact that she is not allowed to choose when that happens in combination with the amount of time that the IUD has already been in place, which is 13 years, means that Spears’ has been stripped of making reproductive choices, and, the longer it persists, the more her case looks like forced sterilization,” said Rachel Johnson-Farias, executive director of the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law.
Johnson-Farias said situations such as the one involving Spears have been seen for decades, and in many cases involve low-income people of color, women, and those with disabilities.
Around the turn of the 20th century, in the wake of reconstruction and suffrage and the rise of Jim Crow, eugenics rose to prominence as a convenient tool of reproductive oppression.
Eugenics informed law and medicine in ways that continue to plague our legal and medical systems today, according to research by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Johnson-Farias first became involved with the reproductive justice movement through her work in California women’s prisons.
“Along with the staff at Oakland-based Justice Now, I documented human rights abuses in prison like forced and coerced sterilizations, imprisonment during reproductive years, and grossly negligent health care resulting in reduced reproductive capacity,” said Johnson-Farias.
The U.S. 1927 Supreme Court Case, Buck v. Bell led to the forced sterilization of more than 70,000 — overwhelmingly poor people of color.
Several states, including California, had eugenics-based laws that allowed for the forced sterilization of people deemed intellectually disabled or unfit to care for themselves.
“Buck v. Bell codified a popular eugenicist idea that those of us who deviate from White supremacist norms, through race, gender, or ability, etc., should not be allowed to reproduce,” said Johnson-Farias.
While individual states took action to challenge Buck v. Bell, the case was never overturned and much of its reasoning continues to support the forced and coerced sterilization of people in prison today.
“Unfortunately, the number of impacted people is likely larger than we will ever know. One particularly telling function of the state stepping in as, or appointing guardianship, is the disturbing lack of accountability once appointed,” said Johnson-Farias.
Whether it be the state intervening to remove a child from their home, acting as guardian in carceral settings, or appointing guardians in conservatorships, Johnson-Farias said there are few enforceable standards and limited ways to challenge the choices of the state or the appointed guardian.
Often, Johnson-Farias said that once a court affirms that someone is incapable of making decisions for themselves, the court rarely interrogates or tracks the decisions that either the state or the court appointed guardian makes on behalf of the disenfranchised person.
“Unfortunately, much of what Britney Spears is facing is legal, common and highlights a central conundrum in our legal system: that which is morally bankrupt, abusive and inhumane is not necessarily illegal,” said Johnson-Farias.
In The News
WASHINGTON -- Attorneys general from 45 states, the District of Columbia and Guam served notice on Wednesday that they are... Read More
WASHINGTON -- Attorneys general from 45 states, the District of Columbia and Guam served notice on Wednesday that they are appealing a federal judge’s decision to throw out their antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. “We filed this notice of appeal because we disagree with the court’s decision... Read More
WASHINGTON - A federal judge on Friday gave the U.S. Federal Trade Commission until Aug. 19 to file an amended... Read More
WASHINGTON - A federal judge on Friday gave the U.S. Federal Trade Commission until Aug. 19 to file an amended complaint in its antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. In a filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the agency asked for a three-week... Read More
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chair of former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging... Read More
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chair of former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he secretly conspired to influence U.S. policy to benefit the United Arab Emirates, even while he was seeking a position as an American diplomat. Tom Barrack,... Read More
A man who threatened a federal judge presiding over prosecution of a Trump national security adviser was sentenced in Washington,... Read More
A man who threatened a federal judge presiding over prosecution of a Trump national security adviser was sentenced in Washington, D.C. Monday to 18 months in prison. Frank J. Caporusso, a 53-year-old electronic parts salesman, had pleaded guilty to threatening U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan... Read More
WASHINGTON - A Republican-led challenge to a House resolution allowing members to vote remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic ended abruptly... Read More
WASHINGTON - A Republican-led challenge to a House resolution allowing members to vote remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic ended abruptly Tuesday after the D.C. Circuit held it had no authority to review a “core” legislative act of Congress. House Resolution 965 was adopted in May 2020... Read More
WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Jonathan Kanter to serve as assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division... Read More
WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Jonathan Kanter to serve as assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice. Kanter is a distinguished antitrust lawyer with over 20 years of experience, the White House said in a written statement. He... Read More