WXXI AM News

A judge orders a local woman not to get pregnant again until she gets her life back together

Feb 13, 2017

A Rochester court case is raising questions of just what a judge can order a woman to do in terms of getting pregnant again.

This involves a decision involving a drug-addicted woman, who has been a prostitute, having the right to have more children.

The court decision was made by Monroe County Family Court Judge Patricia Gallaher several weeks ago, just before she retired, but it’s starting to generate more attention now.

The court document refers to a woman referred to as “Brandy F. “ who has had four children, none of whom are in her care, and the judge says the mother admitted the use of illegal drugs during her pregnancy.

The decision talks about the judge being able to order Brandy to take whatever steps the mother chooses to prevent her from conceiving another child (at no financial cost to her) until she gets her life back together.

The director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, KaeLyn  Rich, says this case could set a bad precedent by ordering a woman not to get pregnant.

“I think the problem here is that this is a slippery slope to tell a woman that you don’t have the right to make the decision, the government is going to make that decision for you. This is the state asserting itself into a person’s bedroom and into a person’s doctor office in a way that sets an awful precedent, and that is very, very dangerous," Rich told WXXI News.

The Monroe County Public Defender’s Office tells us they will appeal this ruling. Public Defender Tim Donaher contends that this ruling goes beyond what the courts can legally do.

“We think that this raises significant constitutional concerns regarding the right to privacy, the role of a state in telling people when and when they cannot procreate, so just like we did when we appealed the Bobbie Jean case in 2004, we think this case raises similar issues.”

Donaher is referring to a similar case 13 years ago where Family Court Judge Marilyn O'Connor ordered a couple not to conceive any more children until the ones they already had were no longer in foster care.

An appellate court later overturned the ruling.  Gallaher was law clerk to Judge O'Connor at that time.