Inmates in White County, Tennessee will get thirty days off of their sentence – if they agree to allow the state to mess with their reproductive systems. At the taxpayers’ expense, of course. A “volunteer” vasectomy is planned for male inmates while females will receive a Nexplanon arm implant for birth control – good for up to four years.
This lovely new incentive was handed down in May from General Sessions Court Judge, Sam Benningfield, who said he made the decision so that inmates were not “burdened with children” once they were released.
I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, to not to be burdened with children. This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves,” said the oh-so wise judge. “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.
While on the surface this may be seen as a good thing – less unwanted pregnancies, fewer women on welfare and absent daddies – there’s a lot of potential for some serious consequences. Take, for example, medical expenses. These procedures are not always one hundred percent effective and come with side effects. Who will be responsible for paying for any additional medical costs, such as if the vasectomy becomes infected? Will that burden fall to the taxpayer, too?
While vasectomies are pretty effective, according to Web MD it can still take a few months for it to work and during that time a man can still impregnate a woman. So, if the inmate is scheduled for release in three months’ time and has the vasectomy, there’s still a possibility for that unplanned pregnancy.
The Nexplanon implant only works up to four years, while the vasectomy is for a lifetime. (Why the dissimilarity between the sexes?) There will be extra costs associated with the implant post procedure. Web MD said patients “may have to pay about $600 or more for an exam and the implant, and $100 or more to have it removed.” When women go in for a check-up, it may require an x-ray to determine the location of the implant. Again, more burden for the county residents to bear.
Move away from financial consideration and let’s travel on to the morality of this. Vasectomies are considered lifetime solutions to birth control. While it can be reversed, it is not always guaranteed the reversal would work. (And again, who would pay for the reversal?) Are inmates in the right frame of mind to make such a life-altering decision? With the enticing bribe of tasting freedom sooner beckoning them from beyond their six-foot cells and metal bars, many will jump at the opportunity without a thought to their future.
Fox News reported that since May, “32 women have received the implant, while 38 men are waiting for a vasectomy.” Does this offer extend to any inmate, regardless of age or reason for imprisonment? An eighteen-year-old male, for example, incarcerated for drunk driving. Right now the thought of having children is probably the furthest thing from his mind. The vasectomy gives him a chance to get out of jail earlier, and then when out, not have to worry about becoming a daddy. But, if the system’s goal is to rehabilitate the inmates, what happens a few years down the road when this man is a productive member of society and wants to marry and have children? Is it even legal to offer such a bribe – and let’s be straight here, it is a bribe.
White County District Attorney Bryant Dunaway said in a statement this was not only unethical but possibly illegal and stated his office does not support the initiative:
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.
And that’s not all folks. There are some real serious issues to consider here. Some may look at this coerced sterilization as a form of population control. Is this another attempt at the government to try and control race (black Americans have one of the highest prison populations, for example) or eliminate those perceived with a defective gene from procreating?
This is dangerous ground, indeed. Hopefully, this is not a trend that will spread to other counties and states. The offer of a shorter jail sentence is very enticing. It would be like offering a cup of water to someone who has been stranded in the desert for several days, and then saying they could have the water if they agree to undergo a surgery and never procreate.