Sterilizing Minors and Incompetents
The sterilization of legal and mental incompetents is a legally risky endeavor because of a strong societal policy against forcing or coercing individuals to be sterilized. If a medical care practitioner or other person uses the threat of withdrawal of federally funded services to coerce a person into agreeing to be sterilized, he or she commits a federal crime and is subject to imprisonment. The problem is that the courts tend to assume that coercion is involved whenever a minor or incompetent is sterilized. When a sterilization is otherwise medically and ethically indicated, [ACOG Committee Opinion 63. Sterilization of Women Who Are Mentally Handicapped. September 1988] the medical care practitioner should seek a court order approving the procedure. Under no circumstances should a minor be sterilized without the approval of the appropriate court in the state where the procedure is to take place.