Britney’s Conservatory is an example of how the US legacy of eugenics continues to affect the lives of disabled women


Michaela Kathleen Curran, University of Iowa

Britney Spears became embroiled in a lawsuit
13 years in production. While her father was suspended as curator of her estate on September 29, 2021, her conservatory may not be terminated until the next hearing on November 12.

During this time at the conservatory, she was limited in her ability to make everyday decisions that most people take for granted.

A revelation that came out of it
The emotional testimony of Spears was that she couldn’t give up birth control.

“[T]his so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor [my IUD] out because they don’t want me to have kids – any more kids, “Spears said.

Spears’ fear of losing her reproductive power was palpable. And their story is shared by disabled women across the country who
denied the right to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

Guaranteeing the reproductive rights of women with disabilities is a professional and personal matter for me. I am a
Health researcher at the University of Iowa examines the social factors that affect accessibility for disabled people. I am also a disabled woman who has faced difficult choices about my own sexual and reproductive health.

Women with disabilities, especially those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, are often trapped by
paternalistic decision making. Courts and guardians make decisions about their lives with little influence from the women themselves. Society regards this approach as benevolent because women with physical and mental disabilities are often considered sexually vulnerable and need protection for their own good. But these beliefs stem from the long shadow of eugenics and the stigma and stereotypes that continue to dominate the conversations about disability and reproduction.

The long shadow of eugenics

The United States has a history of Forced Sterilization Guidelines aimed at disabled people, women of color and people living in poverty.

This policy grew out of the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bellwho allowed the sterilization of Carrie Bell, a young woman known as “stupid“From her adoptive family and, ultimately, from the Supreme Court. Buck v. Bell became a pioneer of Eugenics movementthat wanted to eliminate “negative traits” through selective breeding. The verdict opened the door for one an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 forced sterilizations in the US in the 20th century.

Buck v. Bell and the US eugenics movement has impacted both of them state disability policy and reproductive health services. Today the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognizes that disability is not a reason for sterilization and that people should be able to make choices about their own health as much as possible. However, this is only one Healthcare Professional Ethics Policy, not enforced by solid public policy.


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1 Comment
  1. The judge may decide how long the conservatorship lasts, but they rely on the court investigator’s report. Seeing thousands of cases each year, they do not have time to meet your loved one outside the hearing.

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