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New York judge orders woman not to get pregnant again, stirs up controversy

Photo courtesy of New York State Unified Courts

A New York family court judge’s decision has stirred up both controversy and praise.

The Democrat and Chronicle reports that the judge ordered a woman not to get pregnant until she regained custody of her newborn son, who was the fourth child that was taken from the woman’s care.

“So it's saying,” said Gary Craig, reporter and public safety watchdog in an interview with WHAM, “'we're telling you not to have any more children until you're fit to at least have the newborn back in the house.'"

The decision was made on Dec. 27, but only reported earlier this week, and is expected to be appealed.

The defendant, listed as 'Brandy F', gave birth to her son at 29 weeks and he showed signs of drug withdrawal, according to The Democrat and Chronicle. The newspaper also reports that Brandy admitted to ingesting crack cocaine, methadone and alcohol during the pregnancy.

Judge Patricia Gallaher wrote in her decision, “the testimony in this case clearly established that the mother had little or no prenatal care, that the baby was born prematurely with a positive toxicology for illegal drugs, and that the mother admitted use of illegal drugs during her pregnancy.”

Gallaher ordered that they baby be removed from Brandy’s care and said that she wanted Brandy to stabilize her life and regain custody of her children. The Democrat and Chronicle reports that Brandy had another son taken from her in 2007 after the child “was not protected from access to (a) hypodermic needle.”

The ruling directs county caseworkers to offer family planning and contraception to Brandy, according to the newspaper. New York’s Social Services Law requires caseworkers “advise eligible needy persons periodically of the availability at public expense of family planning services for the prevention of pregnancy and inquire whether such persons desire to have such services furnished to them.” Caseworkers can only advise the use of family planning services and contraception, they cannot require someone to use them.

WHAM talked to Lawyer Scott Forsyth, who is also a counsel to the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who said that it sets a dangerous precedent. “It's not the business, or right of the government - and that's what court is, is a branch of government - to step in and tell somebody they cannot procreate, cannot get pregnant again, until certain conditions happen."

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