In a modern-day version of eugenics, inmates in White County, Tennessee are volunteering to receive vasectomies or birth control implants in exchange for credit toward their jail sentence.
It’s a dark program that the ACLU says is unconstitutional, and whether or not it is, it certainly hearkens back to similar cases in which inmates and mental patients, particularly racial minorities or other disenfranchised groups, were forced to obtain sterilization.
The program was begun on May 15 of this year when Judge Sam Benningfield signed an order to allow inmates to receive a credit of 30 days toward their outstanding jail sentence of they consent and obtain either a vasectomy for men, or a birth control implant for women.
For men, the procedure is technically reversible, though it is performed with the possibility of never being able to be reversed thanks to complications. For women, the choice to consent to a birth control implant requires that the implant be removed at a later date (up to 10 years in the future) with possible complications including the perforation of the uterine wall, rejection, and other dangerous side effects.
In both cases, the state is putting pressure on inmates to consent to invasive medical procedures in exchange for reduced jail sentences, a complicated process that can leave inmates vulnerable.
So far, 32 women have elected to participate in the program and have received the Nexplanon implant. 38 men are currently waiting to receive their vasectomies.
Though the judge who ordered the program believes he is giving the inmates an opportunity, the pressure for an inmate to submit to temporary or semi-permanent sterilization in exchange for freedom is troubling to say the least.