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Tennessee judge offers reduced sentences in exchange for inmate vasectomies

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Zelda Caldwell - published on 07/21/17

ACLU calls "coerced contraception or sterilization" unconstitutional

A Tennessee judge is offering reduced sentences for inmates who agree to undergo sterilization in a move that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling “unconstitutional.”

Under the state’s program, instituted by Judge Sam Benningfield in May, NBC News reported, male inmates who opt to have vasectomies can receive reduced sentences, while female can cut their jail times if they agree to use a contraceptive that renders them sterile for four-years.

“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional,” Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director, said in a statement. “Such a choice violates the fundamental constitutional right to reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity by interfering with the intimate decision of whether and when to have a child, imposing an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it.”

Judge Benningfield told News Channel 5 that the program is designed to encourage “personal responsibility” and ensure that inmates will not “be burdened with children.”

According to the NBC News report, 32 women have received the birth control implant and 38 men have agreed to have a vasectomy.

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