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'Birth Control as Penalty'

June 22, 1988

The column discusses the pros and cons a judge faces in dealing with irresponsible mothers who are capable of bearing children but sadly lack the emotional control and character regarded a necessary by society for successful parenting.

In the case he cites, the judge gave the mother guilty of felony child abuse a sentence of furnishing "written proof" that she is using birth control or if she fails to comply she will be sent back to prison. The crux of the matter rests on whether or not such governmental control violates personal rights; in other words is such a sentence constitutional?

Elaborating, Dershowitz goes on to state that no judge should be able to mandate that a defendant either go to church or go to prison. That would be unconstitutional.

Yet, judges routinely hand out mandatory attendance at an extended series of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for drunk drivers in lieu of fines and/or jail sentences. Frequently, at such meetings, the Lord's Prayer is recited, to which some people object on grounds it violates their religious faith.

What about those to whom any religious faith violates their personal convictions?

Have they no civil rights?


Costa Mesa

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