The real question is not whether forced sterilization is justifiable but whether it could ever be applied ethically and responsibly. There are circumstances that make murder and theft justifiable and yet not socially acceptable.
Most people have had enough of a brush with an unfit parent to agree that in certain circumstances forced sterilization would be appropriate for the individual and for society as a whole. The problem lies in taking that theory and converting it into an ethically managed, effectively utilized, public policy.
In what situations would sterilization be acceptable? Would it be applicable to a woman who utilizes abortion as the sole means of birth control or a man who has not taken responsibility for the chidlren he has fathered? What about a repeat child rapist, or a mother who has allowed her child to die at the hands of a boyfriend? Is society only interested in punishing woman for irresponsibly bearing children or would men be included? Would it be appropriate for drug addicts, the mentally ill, the homeless or those with severe genetic depression?
Perhaps the question shouldn’t be who should be sterilized, but who shouldn’t? Which members of society should possess the right to procreate? Perhaps only the rich, the attractive, or the smartest members of society should remain fertile. Is someone with a superior sense of humor but a cleft palette worthy of being saved from sterilization?
While concerns such as these may seem exaggerated, the use of mandatory sterilization already has a long history. It has been used in Nazi Germany, Peru, Sweden, Finland and the United States to sterilize the poor, the illiterate, minorities, epileptics, manic-depressives, prostitutes, alcoholics, homeless, or criminals often without their consent and occasionally without their knowledge. If these are the types of classifications that are to be used, Oprah Winfrey’s poor, unwed teenage parents would have qualified for forced sterilization as would Robin Williams for his abuse of alcohol and President Obama for his admitted use of both alcohol and cocaine.
As a society we have a moral obligation to commit extensive time and exhaustive research to finding reasonable solutions that do not require invasive and potentially dangerous medical procedures. A government policy of forced sterilization would require the vast majority of society to agree on the type of actions or lack of action that would merit such a procedure. Until that time there can be no justification for forced sterilization that is against a person’s God given and Constitutionally protected will.