"Boy, have you opened a can of worms!"
Reader Response to Sterilization of Mothers Who Have FAS Children
I recently posed this question, “Should women who repeatedly deliver fetal alcoholic syndrome (FAS) brain damaged babies be sterilized? I received a ton of e-mails and readers requested a follow-up column.
From Lethbridge; “What a tough topic to tackle. While human rights are important, law makers have gone to the extreme allowing this injustice to continue. Thanks for raising awareness and being brave enough to tell it like it is.”
ED in Sault Ste Marie says, “Totally agree, but it will be tough to legislate. Trudeau was only half right when he drafted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He should have added Responsibility.”
From Windsor; “It’s hard to read your abusive column. Last year the Canadian Psychiatric Association had a campaign targeting the destructiveness of opinions like yours. I guess you didn’t read it.”
A Professor of Criminology says, “Your sterilization solution is incendiary, not well articulated, and I’m surprised an educated person would advocate such an outrageous position.” Another added “Your views are contrary to the Hippocratic oath. Why not sterilize all women who have a handicap? I feel sorry for you.”
From Toronto; “I read you in the Toronto Sun and enjoy your interesting and competent articles. I hope you receive many positive responses, but I’m sure you will be accused of cultural genocide and racism.”
I received an overwhelming response from Winnipeg. One reader remarked, “We have a large native population and as a social worker I’ve been aware of this tragedy for years. I know a family with five FAS children. They are always in jail, show no remorse, and they will never change. Please keep writing about controversial issues.”
From Brockville; “You missed the mark on this column. God gave us these children and we must also look after their mothers.”
Others chastised me for not stressing that these women were living in poverty, homeless, often turned away from detox centers, and that I showed a lack of compassion for them.
A woman in Prince Edward Island says, “Boy, have you opened a can of worms! I have first hand experience with this problem and I agree with sterilizing these women. But the do-gooders will scream bloody murder about rights. So this will only happen in 3010. By then the world will be so overpopulated that no one will give a damn.”
A major complaint was from readers who are tired of irresponsible women playing “mommy” at taxpayer expense. Some suggested that women on crack cocaine and other drugs that harm children should also be sterilized. And several wanted to sterilize no-good fathers that walk away Scot free.
Many parents who replied had adopted an FAS child and related the family turmoil it had caused, how those who advocate that education is the answer have never lived with a perpetual drunk. Yet I received many replies proposing that education and improved social services were the answer.
A good number of readers had no idea of the cost of caring for FAS children and thanked me for providing an outlet to vent their feelings. As one reader exclaimed, “If you can’t feed them, don’t breed them.”
Nurses in all parts of Canada, particularly the northern regions, related the terrible social consequences they encounter caring for these children. Several suggested more school programs in an effort to get the FAS message out to teenagers and prospective mothers.
Another theme was frequent. We require a license to drive a car, have a pet, fish, and how we handle our garbage. Yet, authorities refuse to take action on truly vital matters. A reader recalled a situation where a drug addict had 13 children, all brain affected, 12 had been removed from her care yet she was fighting to keep the 13thchild!
The column also provided classroom material for ethics debates at Roman Catholic Colleges and high schools. The replies would fill a book. I spent hours reading them. They also provided the occasional chuckle when one reader suggested adding birth control pills to cheap liquor. And I really laughed when several asked if I’d run for politics as they’d vote for me. I’d last less than a day at that!
My thanks to all who responded.
W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker’s website is: docgiff.com.
Dr. Walker can be reached at [firstname.lastname@example.org?bcc=letters@canadafree.