Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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C’est que c’est.

22/08/2012

Admittedly, it’s difficult to try and run multiple blogs at the same time. I’ve been working on building my own trademarked site, and in the meantime I’ve been posting on my other WP blog (C’est que c’est). I can’t promise that it’s “worth” reading, but chances are if you follow me here then you’ll find something to suit your tastes over there. And if not…well, I take requests.

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Should authors read reviews of their work?

02/02/2012

Today’s reflection came in a roundabout manner: Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, is getting ready for the release of her memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Personally, I can’t wait to read it, but that isn’t the point.

Jenny’s friend Alice posted this piece about whether to read reviews, specifically directed toward Jenny but applicable, really, to everyone who writes — that means humble reviewers like myself as well. As she points out, “[s]ometimes people are just unhappy, or having a bad day, or nuts. You can’t control who reads your work, or how they’ll react.” This is so true, as anybody who has submitted their work for public consumption can attest. Even comments on reviews can be snarky because someone’s taste is different or they don’t understand how a quantitative rating may not necessarily jive with a qualitative one. I’ve been told I need new glasses (ahem, how did you know I wear them?) because the person commenting loved a book that I reviewed as mediocre, so I can only imagine some of the terrible comments that others have had to endure.

As a reviewer, it’s my humble assertion that a book review serves to inform other readers about a new or overlooked book, in the hopes that someone else will pick it up to enjoy it equally, or save their money, or read it to come to their own conclusion. Writers are not the intended audience and do not need to succumb to the temptation to read every word written about their work. At the same time, though, I have written more than a couple of reviews in which I pointed out technical errors in writing or editing that should be shared with the writer — if not to counsel her/him, then for consideration when choosing a publisher or editor in the future. I would encourage writers to pay attention to particular details that are supported by quotation or other in-text evidence.

The best advice, then, would be to each her own. If you must read, seek out reviews on established sites where posts are informative, emotionally neutral, and full of support for the reviewer’s rating. There may be exponentially more reviews that are as full of deep and strongly held emotional reactions as they are of typographical errors, but a writer cannot accurately judge the quality of her work without seeking reviewers who are as careful with their reviews as the writer is about her work.

So, should you read the reviews? Well, yes and no. Maybe.

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Snyder v. Phelps, et al: finally, something Alito and I can agree on.

02/03/2011

The big story that caught my attention today is the Supreme Court ruling on Snyder v. Phelps et al.

Albert Snyder, father of deceased Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, won an $11 million judgment against Fred Phelps and his organization, the vitriolic Westboro Baptist Church, alleging that protesters at his son’s funeral and later Web posts criticizing the Snyders’ parenting caused him significant emotional distress. The judgment was later reduced to $5 million and later overturned on appeal. The writ of certiorari filed in the Supreme Court was for the justices to either uphold the appeal ruling, thereby asserting that the WBC acted lawfully and within their constitutional rights, or to overturn the appeal ruling and agree with the lower court that Snyder was entitled to his original judgment.

In an 8-1 ruling, the justices voted to uphold the appeal ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority Opinion of the Court, the crux of which seems to be the question of whether the WBC’s protests qualify as “matters of public concern”, which he asserts they do (see pp. 6-7 in the linked opinion above). Also at issue is whether WBC was guilty of intrusion upon seclusion because they protested at a funeral in which Snyder and others constituted a “captive audience”; however, in the opinion Chief Justice Roberts points out that precedent places the primary burden of avoiding harmful speech on the listener(s) rather than the speaker(s) (page 13), and that due to their distance from the funeral itself the protesters were not causing the funeral-goers to be a captive audience. Roberts is careful to state, however, that the Court’s ruling is narrow and not meant to be applied outside the unique facts of the case at hand.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a concurring opinion in which he upheld the key points of the official opinion, but also acknowledged points made by Justice Samuel Alito in his dissenting opinion and further iterated that this case is a unique situation that should not be used as a hard and fast template for future discussions on the subject. In his dissent, meanwhile, Justice Alito took issue with the Court’s ruling that the First Amendment protects actions such as those taken by the protesters at the Snyder funeral not only because of the location of their protests and the fact that the Snyders are private citizens, but also because he argues that this particular attack by the WBC was personally directed at Matthew and his family — in a press release following the funeral they called him out for being Catholic and a soldier — and not intended to contribute to reasonable debate on issues of public concern.

Justice Alito further argues that the incendiary and personally-directed statements of the WBC should not be protected simply because they were part of expanded statements that could be considered issues of public conern; that WBC’s statements were “part of a cold and calculated strategy to slash a stranger as a means of attracting public attention” (p. 10 of the dissent); and that the fact that the protests occurred on public property shouldn’t make them immune to prosecution — “there is no good reason to treat a verbal assault based on the conduct or character of a private figure like Matthew Snyder any differently” than riotous or defamatory speech.

Now that everybody’s on the same page…

When I read the news coverage of the Court’s ruling, I was originally inclined to express agreement with both the majority and dissenting opinions. However, after reading the official opinions (linked above, or available on the Supreme Court’s Web site), I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Justice Alito. All three opinions on the ruling interpret the proceedings in a very narrow context, but I think that the majority has erred too gravely on the side of protecting harmful speech and has not paid enough attention to the legal restrictions of the type of speech exhibited by the WBC. Alito, meanwhile, has delved into the laws in place specifically designed to provide relief against such hateful speech that conceals itself in just enough statements of “public concern” to cast doubt on their intent.

I firmly believe in upholding our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, even if that speech isn’t popular or even ventures into the territory of “hateful” and “harmful”. However, I don’t think that free speech would be necessarily threatened had the entire Court gone with Justice Alito in this case — after all, free speech isn’t threatened by exceptions already in place that protect individuals against slander and libel, defamation and the disclosure of issues of private concern.

Rather than protecting “free speech”, the Snyder ruling protects activity that the WBC themselves admit is not legal or appropriate (they didn’t contest the allegations against them in their response) by allowing them to hide behind the First Amendment. For all of their speech that can be considered matters of “public” concern, and for all of their posturing that they acted in a lawful manner, their interjection of actions and statements that are not protected should nullify their protection in a narrow ruling of this case — just as any other protester’s protection would be nullified if they punched somebody in the face.

Fortunately, the Westboro Baptist Church is at this moment the only organization in our country that uses such particular tactics to advance their message of hate, and I can only hope that other organizations don’t take this ruling as the go-ahead to do the same. Short of waging war on the WBC, all I can suggest is to let love and support overcome their message — if you are unlucky enough to encounter them, follow the example of Ohio Wesleyan University’s “Love Day on the JAY” and other similar counter-protests that embrace a loving and peaceful message rather than directly engaging the lunacy of the brightly-colored hate signs.

 

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Keep Guns Off Campus

28/02/2011
Elliott Hall, the first college building on ca...

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One of the most disturbing trends I’ve seen in the news over the last week or two is a push by lawmakers in several states to compel colleges and universities to allow students and faculty over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons on campus. Currently, the only individuals allowed to carry firearms on college campus are duly bonded law enforcement officials, either municipal or contracted through the school (campus police). As more and more states consider similar measures I find myself more and more concerned for my friends and relatives currently in college…and for future college students who may find themselves in a quite dangerous situation.

Earlier this month a student was killed and several others injured when a man opened fire at a house party held just off-campus of Youngstown State University. Different reports all indicate that there was some sort of altercation involving the gunmen and others at the house, and the student who was killed was attempting to separate the fighters. While such a situation is possible regardless of the concealed carry policies on campus, the fact that something like this can happen should give anybody who supports this type of legislation cause to stop and consider. What if the next brouhaha at your school’s fraternity house turns into a bloodbath because one of the pissed-off guys just happens to have a 9mm in his jeans?

Robert Spitzer’s article in HuffPo yesterday (linked below) is a well-thought piece that thoroughly explores all of the reasons that putting more guns on campus is just a terrible idea. Among his arguments:

Campus violence is falling, and schools aren’t just sleeping on the job when it comes to campus security. There are other, wiser ways of ensuring the safety of students on campus, as well as to ensure their feeling of safety. I, for example, have a terrible aversion to guns. I can watch them on the television, but if I am within ten feet of a firearm I begin to tense up and the adrenaline begins to flow — it doesn’t matter who is holding it. This is due to certain events in my past, and while I am only one person I can guarantee that there are others like me for whom it would be traumatic to imagine that fellow students and professors are just able to tote around weapons at their pleasure.

Students get stressed and act impulsively. This should be obvious, but given that Spitzer devoted an entire paragraph to it I imagine he feels, as I do, that people tend to forget about this. Simply because students have turned 18, 19, 20, 21, doesn’t mean that they are suddenly no longer adolescents. Additionally, while junior high and high school are also stressful times they don’t last 24/7; students go home and have the opportunity to channel their frustrations into other activities. They also (hopefully) have attentive parents and other family members on hand who can keep an eye out for signs of extraordinary stress and can take steps to help alleviate that before it turns into a nightmare.

In college, though, young adults simultaneously gain constant exposure to different stressors and lose the safety net of a supportive family at their disposal. Even daily phone calls and weekend visits can’t fully ameliorate the kind of pressure that can build up in a college student’s life (as I say from experience), especially if the student is a loner or not involved in a group that can provide a substitution for that support. A self-aware student may recognize feelings of anger and depression and seek help for it (and I fully recommend the Health Services and counseling offices on campus), but what if a student doesn’t know that those services are available or fails to recognize the symptoms of a chronic problem? The only real reason I knew what I was feeling is because I come from a family with a history of depressive disorders, so what about someone who didn’t?

The absolute worst thing you can do in those circumstances is provide them with a gun. Even if the laws will only apply to 21-year-olds, college is little different from the family home in that a kid with a will is going to get what they want — and if the 18-year-old wants a gun, s/he is going to find it. It’s always possible that s/he will go on a rampage against others, of course, the but more likely and in some ways more tragic possibility is that s/he will turn that gun on him/herself. This isn’t to say that a student bent on suicide will be at a loss; as fellow alumni and students from Ohio Wesleyan know, a freshman hung himself on the weekend after his very first weekend of classes in 2009. Still, instead of giving these students yet one more way out, we should be focusing on providing more comprehensive services and making them more accessible to students. If the government really wants to help students, they should get behind those efforts.

For all the pro-gun arguments that allowing students to carry weapons on campus will make them safer, consider that in many states there is no requirement that a concealed carry license applicant undergo any formal training in shooting or gun safety — here, for example, is Ohio’s application. Therefore, one cannot even reasonably assume that the majority of gunholders have had any training whatsoever but can assume that if one of them pulls their gun to “respond to a threat” or for whatever reason, there is an even higher likelihood of collateral damage to innocent bystanders.

In addition, a law such as the ones proposed would add a new and more dangerous element to any investigation of supposed wrongdoing — campus security would have to not only verify the presence of any weapons, but also the presence of required licenses to carry said weapons. Dealing with unruly students is difficult enough without the added pressure of worrying whether the student accused of an alcohol violation (or worse) is also packing heat. Finally, campus police would have to be equipped with firearms as well which for some schools would mean thousands of dollars in training for officers who are not bonded, such as the Public Safety officers at OWU.

Long story short, allowing concealed carry on college campuses is a costly undertaking with the potential for far too many disastrous effects, and even the strongest argument in favor isn’t enough to make this a reasonable path for lawmakers to take. I can only hope that Ohio’s legislature doesn’t trip down the same lane of idiocy.

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The Two Marriages

25/02/2011

It’s been a HuffPo kind of Friday.

Next on my list of articles of interest: pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow published a blog entry yesterday in which he makes an argument that I’ve been shouting out for years: “marriage” is not a government construct. Marriage, especially as it is defended by those who argue most strongly for its exclusivity, is a spiritual commitment between two people who agree to share trials and triumphs, good times and bad and all of the “ho-hum” days in between. The civil (read: government) institution of marriage is merely a personal contract that affords both parties certain obligations and entitlements.

If you ask anybody who knows me well, they have likely heard me talk about this before. Likewise, Brian will tell you that I already consider us to be married — we made an agreement to one another and to a higher power to stay together and be loving to one another, to keep all of those vows that we will make one day in front of our family and friends. (Wait, it still counts if we conceptualize that “higher power” differently, right?) The legal recognition of our union is important for all of the legal rights it affords us, but the “legal” institution of marriage is simply a…wait for it…civil union.

Reyes-Chow brings up another fantastic point that seems to be forgotten in the clamor to define marriage: “defining marriage is a no-win situation.” Those same people who will rush up with Bibles in hand to defend the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman will conveniently forget the stories of men who took multiple wives, even the patriarch Jacob who lest we forget was tricked into marrying one wife and yet took another. However, I don’t see it written on the books in any state that men (or women) are able to engage in polygamy, so clearly biblical precedent doesn’t direct our every law.

This brings up perhaps the most important point that Reyes-Chow makes, and the center for his argument and mine: separation of church and state. The First Amendment to the Constitution establishes a government separated from the religious beliefs and practices of its leaders and citizenry. Therefore, any attempt by legislators, clergy or conservative pundits to distinguish those eligible for government benefits from those who are not based on an institution that is not civic but spiritual in nature is a blatant violation of that separation.

The good pastor points out that he is not acting as an agent of the state when he officiates a wedding, a statement supported by his recollection of his own wedding 20 years ago — though he and his wife considered themselves married when they said “I do,” the state did not consider them bound in a civil union (incorrectly labeled marriage, to blur the lines) until the signed and witnessed marriage license was filed with the court. If “spiritual” marriage and “civil” marriage were the same institution, surely the two marriages would begin at the same time. On the other side of the coin, if marriage was a monolithic institution then ending a marriage would be a single step process as well. However, ask any Catholic who has gone through divorce just how simple it is. The court will acknowledge and grant a dissolution of the civil contract with the appropriate documentation and testimony, but the Catholic Church requires the couple to apply for a separate annulment of the union in order to avoid excommunication.

Finally, we address the ever-looming question of same-sex civil unions. In states where “marriage” equality laws have been passed, members of the clergy may decline to perform a spiritual marriage ceremony but same-sex couples are still allowed to file the necessary paperwork and enter into a civil union with one another — in some states, the contract is classified as a “marriage” contract as it would be with opposite-sex couples. In other states without “marriage” equality laws, same-sex couples may not be able to enter into a civil union with one another, which denies them the tangible rights accorded to other “legally” married individuals, but they may very well find a member of the clergy who could still join them in a “spiritual” marriage that they and their friends and family would recognize regardless of any opposition from the outside.

Nobody is questioning the right of different religious establishments to deny the provision of “spiritual” marriage services to any couple because of their beliefs — this not only applies to same-sex couples but also to couples who do not plan to have children, divorced individuals, or those who do not follow the doctrine of the establishment in question (i.e. Catholic priests who may decline to perform a marriage sacrament if one partner is not Catholic).

However, if we are truly adhering to the Constitution that conservatives love so dearly to read but not to follow, then that right ends at the doors of government — which should be open to everyone who is of the age of majority and who is of sound mind. The government should not attempt to define or defend marriage; what it should defend, rather, are the rights of all of its citizens to enter into civil unions with one another and to enjoy the same rights and obligations of that contract no matter who stands beside them. Call all civil unions just that — don’t discriminate, and strengthen the line between church and state.

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Big Brother is watching…

19/02/2011

Gizmodo: Californian Middle Schools Are Tracking Kids With GPS

Well…this just takes “checking in” to a whole new level.

Long story short: school districts in Anaheim, California are rolling out a six-week test drive of a program initially tried Baltimore and San Antonio, in which students whose attendance record put them in jeopardy of a truancy conviction are given (read: made to carry) a GPS unit that tracks their location and are contacted each day with a reminder to go to school. Each student has a unique code that they are required to enter in the unit at five different times each day (their “check in”), and the program also includes a “tri-weekly catch-up” to make sure they aren’t missing out on recreation.

The program trials in Baltimore and San Antonio were “successful” in that attendance rates went up following the program, though the post doesn’t indicate whether that is a short-term or long-term result or whether previously truant kids were prone to picking up their old habits.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have the Foursquare app downloaded and still occasionally use it — mostly when I’m running late so my coworkers know I’m in the building — because it can be useful and entertaining to keep track of yours and others’ whereabouts. Using a program like Foursquare also gives you tips about the locations you visit, which is kind of nice when you’re traveling in an unfamiliar area.

However, I’m 24 years old and I choose if and when to share my location with others. I’m not a 13- or 14-year-old who decided that I was too *cough cough* sick to go to school and got away with it because my parents didn’t pay attention, or who decided to ditch to get my puff on. (Really, kids, that’s just stupid anyway. Don’t start and you never have to worry about stopping.)

I have a few issues with this program, regardless of its success rate. First, this is yet another example of schools simply picking up the slack where parents are clearly failing. Children shouldn’t need a phone call from a school or government representative to remind them that they have school, and they shouldn’t have to carry around a device to prove that they’re where they should be. Obviously there will be situations in which children outmaneuver their parents despite the latter’s best efforts, but in most cases of child truancy you are dealing with parents who are failing at their most important job. Parents, not GPS units, should be monitoring their children’s location and activities and helping them to develop and abide by a schedule.

You know what that means, parents? Don’t let your kids stay up all night playing their XBox 360s just because they’re “having fun with their friends”. Don’t let them stay over friends’ houses on weeknights unless you KNOW that they will make it to school the next morning (and let’s face it, you can’t ever know 100% of the time). Don’t take them to effing Wal*Mart at 11:30 at night so that they can’t go to sleep and can’t wake up in the morning. If you think I’m talking to you, I am — I can think of a certain few relatives in particular who are guilty of this and all I can say is you’re doing yourselves more harm than good.

The question of missing school due to illness is a tricky one, but I for one would rather err on the side of sending a child to school and having the school send them home unless they are exhibiting unquestionable signs of illness. “I’m tired” is not a legitimate excuse (see above), and “my tummy hurts” is vague enough to be either something entirely serious or merely an exercise out of the Ferris Bueller playbook. A fever, dizziness, extreme flush, throwing up or highly visible little red dots are all incontrovertible signs of illness, and should be taken seriously — that is, unless the red dots are done in Sharpie.

I digress, however. There will be times when even the most diligent parents are unable to prevent their child from slipping through the cracks, especially as they reach middle school and high school and parents are leaving for work as their children are leaving for school. At that point, it is standard practice (and completely appropriate) for the school to call a parent if they haven’t received word that their child will be out, and at that point the responsible parent can take steps to locate their child and respond accordingly. If that is the case, however, and children are actively routing their parents’ efforts to mold them into responsible individuals, then I say address the truancy and work with the child and the parent(s) to establish a pattern of more productive behavior.

Sometimes absence is merely a product of burnout, which is something that both parents and school systems need to take into consideration. When my brother and I were growing up, our mom gave us one “go to hell” day each semester — two days a school year when we could stay home without any reason or illness, real or perceived, and she would call us out for the day. If we claimed illness, then we had to abide by the “sick day rules”: she would call us in, but then we were not allowed to do anything that day. No playing with friends, no participating in extracurriculars, nothing but lying in bed or the couch and (probably) reading or doing homework to stay caught up. Our free days couldn’t be on a day when we had a test or an important project due, but simply having those days allowed us to take a refresher and helped us to take both her and our schooling more seriously. (Okay, most of the time.) If schools would embrace this practice or implement it into the calendar somehow (i.e. longer school years with more frequent mini-vacations) then I think truancy would drop off somewhat, though of course it’s only one part of the problem.

My second problem with this is the fact that the State of California has agreed to absorb the cost of these devices, priced at $300-400 a piece, justifying it by claiming that each student absence costs the school system approximately $35 a day. Therefore, a student would have to miss between 8.57 and 11.43 days of school in order to equal the cost of the device s/he would presumably receive. Chronic truancy in California is defined as missing ten percent or more of the school days in a given year; if we assume a traditional 180-day school year (four quarters of 9 weeks each), that means a student would miss 18 days and cost the school district $630. However, students in this program are given the devices after four absences — I imagine if truancy in Anaheim is bad enough to consider this program in the first place then we are talking quite a few GPS units to go around.

Setting the numbers aside, we encounter the problem of overlap. If a student costs the school district $35 a day then s/he will cost that much no matter whether s/he is in school or not. Therefore, by purchasing the GPS units the state is merely eating away more of the education budget rather than saving anybody any money. Why is money being pulled out of taxpayers’ pockets and poured into a program like this instead of being used to fund well-rounded educations or subsidizing positive educational programs? Why aren’t officials addressing the root of truancy issues instead of throwing technology at the problem? If they are trying to step in as “parent” figures, they are doing no better a job than the parents they are trying to replace.

And that, of course, leads to the third problem — we are turning into a technocratic society that relies on gadgets to take the place of real human engagement. These children shouldn’t be held accountable to a piece of plastic with microchips inside; they should be held accountable to the parents, teachers and peers who are negatively impacted by their decision to skip school. We should be engaging with them, instead of outsourcing their care to technology. It’s bad enough that parents are giving their tweens and teens unfettered access to cell phones, social media and other technology that should be beyond them without adding on another layer. Parenting means engaging with your children, not tethering them to electronics. Maybe if people remembered that, school districts wouldn’t need to resort to stunts like this.

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Should we sterilize the mentally disabled?

18/02/2011

There was a story in Tuesday’s Guardian about a mother in the U.K. who is fighting in court to compel her mentally disabled daughter to undergo sterilization after carrying two pregnancies to term. The article goes on to explain that “Mrs. P”, the grandmother, has been fully responsible for raising her daughter’s first child and will be responsible for the care of the second child, born by C-section Wednesday, but that caring for any future children will continue to put undue strain on her and her family. In fact, Mrs. P stated that she would place any subsequent children borne by her daughter up for adoption — an assertion with which presiding justice Hedley agreed.

The court of protection postponed the hearing until April in order to gather more evidence to determine whether sterilizing the daughter, who is 21, is in her best interest. Another option proffered is to compel the daughter to receive an IUD, an effective but less permanent contraceptive. What isn’t made clear in the article, mainly due to protecting the identity of the daughter, is the nature of her mental disability and whether (and to what extent) she understands the concept of pregnancy, parenthood, and the consequences of what could happen to her.

Jessica over at The Frisky posted a commentary on the article this morning which is what initially turned me on to the discussion. Jessica, ever the reproductive rights activist (and rightfully so), maintains on one hand that “everyone gets to make their own health decisions about reproduction without force or coersion (sic)…” but acknowledges that in this particular situation Mrs. P has every right to be concerned with her daughter’s continued sexual activity and the impact that future pregnancies would have on their welfare. Most of Jessica’s protests against compelled sterilization center around the actions of groups like Project Prevention that pay addicts to “voluntarily” submit to sterilization, and to question precisely where the line would be drawn in terms of what disabilities could render someone incapable of having or raising children in the eyes of the state.

To that effect, I agree with Jessica — someone who is physically disabled, for example, but fully in possession of their mental faculties should not be prevented from becoming parents as long as they are thoughtful about what additional steps they may need to take in terms of procuring help with childcare, etc. (because let’s face it, despite the interest in equality there are some things that people with various disabilities are incapable of doing).

My thoughts regarding those suffering from drug and/or alcohol addictions are somewhat more complex; addicts by nature aren’t very well known for making good decisions and so are unlikely to be very responsible in terms of contraceptives. Also, children born to addicts — if not addicts themselves from exposure in utero — are more likely to be surrendered to the system and to be shuffled back and forth between subpar homes, therefore rendering them more likely to fall into similar negative patterns. That being said, I think it’s more productive to counsel addicts to help them overcome their addictions and to exercise responsible judgment when having sex (much like providing condoms to prostitutes) than it is to permanently keep them from having children. Rehabilitation is possible, after all.

However, the question of the mentally disabled brings me to my most difficult thought process yet. I have a cousin who is learning disabled, though not so severely that she is unable to care for herself; she lives with her now-husband, who is also learning disabled, and they have two children. Of course I am concerned that their children will grow up with learning disabilities of their own, and that they weren’t exercising the best judgment when they decided to have children, but as long as they demonstrate the ability to care for their children and for themselves then I don’t think it’s my right or anybody else’s to restrict their ability to have a family.

The real issue arises when you have a family such as that of Mrs. P, in which the daughter’s mental disabilities apparently are severe enough that her mother must step in as guardian and caregiver. Though we don’t have all of the details, it is reasonable to surmise that the daughter is not capable of making decisions for herself or for her children; while she refused a contraceptive treatment at a family planning clinic we aren’t told why — did she understand the full implications of the treatment, or only that she wouldn’t be “the mummy” anymore? How does she understand the concept of parenting? Or, was her refusal based on something as simple as a fear of needles (the treatment was an injection)?

While the details in this case will continue to leak as proceedings continue, I have to say that under circumstances like this I believe that a legal guardian has the right to consent to some form of contraception on behalf of an individual who is incapable of otherwise caring for and making decisions for her/himself and others. Sterilization is the most severe path, of course, so I would advocate something less invasive but nearly as effective, such as the IUD suggested in the article. I may be criticized to the ends of the earth for that position, but I firmly believe that when a person is unable to understand the consequences of their actions then it is the responsibility of their caregivers to protect them to the best of their ability — if that means birth control for a sexually active individual who doesn’t get that sex can lead to pregnancy and so on, then I’m in favor. In the meantime, like Jessica, I’ll be keeping an eye on this case to see what happens.

(There was an entirely different, though related, question that arose from the comments on Jessica’s piece: if the daughter lacks the capacity to understand pregnancy and parenthood, what is her capacity for understanding sex and being capable of consent? It’s also a compelling question, but one that really really skeeves me out. Maybe another day…)

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