Monday, March 14, 2011

Choice On Trial

The European Court of Human Rights is being asked to decide whether the biological and social conditions necessary to safeguard human procreation trump the determination of social actors to prevent it.  The case of V.C. v. Slovakia involves the alleged involuntary sterilization of a gypsy woman in a hospital. Slovakia, it appears, made the sterilization of gypsy undesirables a priority in 1999, after the fall of its communist regime.

While there will be myriad factual issues to resolve--What the purpose of the sterilization was?; Whether or not the woman gave her informed consent?--it is the political ones that will take center stage.  First, will the eugenic ideology that underlies and provides impetus to aggressive population control movements the world over be unequivocally condemned, or justified (as in the US case of Buck v. Bell)?   Secondly, will the oft-recognized negative freedom of protection from state interference in a couple's decision to naturally procreate be upheld, or will the state be permitted to disregard that right in the absence of compelling, rational reasons?  It seems to Noman that a Court predisposed to favor eugenics will be able to dispose of the case(s) on factual grounds, leaving forced sterilizations a viable public option in practice.  On the other hand, a Court predisposed to favor bodily integrity and marital prerogatives over eugenic ideology has an opportunity to proclaim a resounding affirmation of life, even in dicta.  Stay tuned to see whether the European Court of Human Rights is worthy of the name, and that fancy facility it sits in.

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