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Conservatorship of Valerie N.

Supreme Court of California
707 P.2d 760 (1985)


Facts

Valerie (defendant) was born with Down Syndrome and as a result was severely developmentally disabled. When Valerie was in her 20s, her parents (plaintiffs) filed a petition to be named Valerie’s conservators. In the same petition, Valerie’s parents sought the power to authorize an operation that would permanently sterilize Valerie. Valerie’s personal physician submitted a declaration stating that the procedure was advisable and medically appropriate. A therapist who had worked with Valerie also believed that the operation was appropriate. The therapist had observed Valerie acting affectionately toward men and making inappropriate sexual advances toward them. Valerie’s parents stated that they were forced to be overly protective of Valerie in order to prevent a possible pregnancy. Valerie’s mother testified that Valerie had not been sexually active because she was so closely monitored, but that she was aggressive and affectionate toward boys. Valerie’s parents believed that Valerie’s condition meant that no other birth control methods could ensure against pregnancy. Valerie became ill from birth control pills, was unable to apply other methods of birth control, and would not cooperate in an examination for an intrauterine device. State statute bared nontherapeutic sterilization of conservatees. Valerie’s parents brought an action challenging the law, arguing that the law deprived Valerie of her right of procreative choice by precluding the only means of contraception realistically available to her. Valerie’s counsel argued that the law furthered Valerie’s right of procreative choice by protecting her against forced sterilization. The case eventually made its way to the state supreme court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Grodin, J.)

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