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Eugenics, vasectomies and minimizing harm

By Scott Tibbs, June 30, 2014

The case of Jessie Lee Herald being offered a lesser punishment if he gets a vasectomy absolutely does raise troubling questions and is a reminder of a very dark and shameful chapter in American history. We need to be very worried about government abuse of power, the precedent set by this case and the real possibility of a slippery slope. If this is to stand, any and all such cases must be completely transparent and open to the public.

With all of that said and recognizing the danger, I do not have a problem with asking Herald be voluntarily sterilized in order to prevent him from fathering more illegitimate children with more women. He already has seven children with six women. Should taxpayers be on the hook for the results of his promiscuous sexual behavior? Or should the future harm he will do be minimized, for the good of society?

The primary reason I do not have a problem with this is that it is not eugenics in the traditional sense. Herald is not being targeted for his race or ethnicity, nor is the sterilization due to being mentally "feeble." It was a part of a deal offered to him to reduce his time in prison for the crimes he committed. He is not being deceived (as many women of color were under previous eugenics programs) or forced to consent to the operation, and the details of the deal are public.

Where I draw the distinction between this and true eugenics is that Herald was offered the deal because of his reckless and irresponsible behavior, not because of an innate quality. He committed a crime and was offered a deal to reduce his time behind bars - and this deal has the potential for long-term benefits to the entire community.

But the real problem here is the culture of sexual anarchy where a man fathering multiple children with multiple women is not seen as an immoral, shameful or dishonorable thing. When men can have sex and then leave the mothers (often multiple mothers) of their children in the lurch, it perpetuates a cycle of generational poverty as well as the many other destructive consequences of sexual immorality. If you are looking for a "war on women," Herald is the face of it.