Biomedical Ethics Reviews · 1992

Part of the series Biomedical Ethics Reviews pp 83-99

Birth Control as a Condition of Probation or Parole

  • Martin Gunderson

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On December 10, 1990 the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Norplant® implants, a major advance in birth control technology. The implant, which is surgically placed in the upper arm of a woman, consists of several small rubber tubes that release progestin over a period of five or more years. Within a month the new device made its impact felt on the criminal justice system in California. Darlene Johnson, a mother of four, pleaded guilty to several counts of felony child abuse after being arrested for beating two of her children with a belt and an electric cord. On January 2, 1991, Howard Broadman, Superior Court Judge of Tulare County, California, sentenced Ms. Johnson to serve one year in jail and three years on probation while using the Norplant® implant. In addition, her children were placed in foster homes.1 Ms. Johnson was also ordered to undergo mental health counseling and parenting classes.2 Later, Ms. Johnson said she agreed to the terms of probation only because she was afraid she would otherwise be sentenced to serve the entire four years in jail.3 Ms. Johnson then appealed the ruling.