Can the sterilisation of unfit mothers ever be justified?

By Nina Steele 

I was having a chat with a group of women including a social worker the other day, when the subject turned to the case of a woman who has had all her 5 children taken away by social services because she is deemed unfit to raise them. Every time she gives birth, the child is promptly taken away and the same thing happened when she gave birth to her fifth child just a few weeks ago.

However, unlike the other 4 children, she has decided to fight for the right to keep this child and is taking the council to court. From what I understand, she is unlikely to get the child back because of some serious issues she and her partner still have that can put any child in their care in danger.

There was a consensus among all of us that something has to be done to prevent her from getting pregnant again because of the long term impact putting the children in care can have not only on them but on society as a whole. One of the women who has children of her own, felt strongly that in a case like this one, sterilisation is justified.

According to the NSPCC, there are currently over 92,000 children in the care system in the UK. This is one of the unfortunate consequences of living in a society in which the message is that everyone should aspire to become a parent regardless of their personal circumstances.

The truth is that not everyone is capable of being a parent and sadly, it takes a child to be born for the issue to be addressed. It is true that sterilisation can come across as quite an extreme measure, but what other options are there to prevent some very damaged people from repeatedly bringing innocent children into this world? I know a woman who spent most of her childhood in care and the damage done to her was so great that she only found peace in her 40s. At least she eventually managed to sort herself out, what about the many others who are lost to society for good?

I think most people would agree that the welfare of a child is too great to be left to chance. When a mother does not make an effort to change her destructive behaviour, even when she knows that her child will be taken away if she becomes pregnant, and still goes ahead and becomes pregnant again and again, what other options are left for society to pursue?

I suppose that some people will make the case for adoption and of course it is a valid option. But what about the impact that substance abuse during pregnancy has on a child, both in the short and long terms? Behavioural problems are some of those issues. The ramifications are so great that maybe it is time to consider drastic measures. Forced sterilisation may be a step too far, but encouraging some of those women to consider it themselves is not a bad thing in my view.

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