September 18, 1975 · Cavalier Daily

Judge Halts Sterilization

In England. Judge Rose Heilbron rules against sterilizing a mentally disabled girl with Soto's syndrome, on the grounds that this would deprive her of her right as a woman to reproduce.


Cavalier Daily Sept 18, 1975 - Judge Halts Sterilization.pdf
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Judge Halts Sterilization
LONDON (AP) – An English judge ordered doctors yesterday not to sterilize an 11-year-old girl they say is mentally backward, declaring that it would deprive her of the basic right of a woman to reproduce.
Judge Rose Heilbron, 61, who is married to a physician, said some doctors felt the operation was necessary because the girl was mentally backward while her “physical development had advanced at an exceptional rate.”
Her mother, a 51-year-old widow and cleaning woman with two other children, had consented to the operation. But an educational psychologist, Margaret Dubberley, who works at a special school attended by the girl, brought legal proceedings to stop it.
The girl never has been named and Judge Heilbron ordered that no hint be given of her identity.
At the end of a five-day private hearing in high court, Judge Heilbron said she was announcing her decision in open court because of the controversy the case has provoked over w hether English law adequately protects the rights of children.
She said the operation was “neither medically indicated nor necessary, and it would not be in the girl’s best interests for it to be performed.” The girl’s behavioral condition had improved, and the operation would “deprive her of a basic human right – that of a woman to reproduce,” Judge Heilbron said.
The judge praised the “courage, persistence and humane concern for this young girl” shown by Mrs. Dubberley and her colleagues and described the girl’s mother as “excellent, caring and devoted.” The mother had “courageously faced various problems over her daughter” and had consented to the operation on medical advice, the judge said.
Doctors said the girl suffers from a rare condition called “Soto’s syndrome,” which results in large bone growth, behavioral problems and often some degree of mental retardation. However, Mrs. Dubberley had said she did not consider the girl retarded, though she is somewhat clumsy and of below-average intelligence.
The case has similar parallels to one in the United States.
The U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity reported two years ago that 11 minors may have been involuntarily sterilized by a federally funded birth control clinic in Montgomery, Ala., after an investigation prompted by a lawsuit filed on behalf of two sterilized girls.
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Date Added July 20, 2015
Date Modifed December 28, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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