GOVERNOR QUINN SIGNS LAW BANNING STERILIZATION OF ADULTS WITH DISABILITIES WITHOUT COURT ORDER
Equip for Equality’s Judicial Victory Paved the Way to Crucial Legislative Reform for Adults with Disabilities Under Guardianship
CHICAGO (August 12, 2009)— Yesterday, Governor Quinn took another significant step forward by signing House Bill 2290 into law (Public Act 96-0272). This allows Illinois to join a majority of states that require a court order before a guardian can consent to the sterilization of an adult ward with disabilities. In so doing, the due process rights and the reproductive dignity of adults with disabilities under guardianship has been preserved.
Previously, there was no requirement that a guardian of an adult with a disability petition the court to authorize a ward’s sterilization. In recognition of the fundamental rights at stake, and the shameful history of involuntary sterilization of people with disabilities, most states enacted statutes to provide due process protection for wards facing this traumatic and life-changing situation. Before today, Illinois was one of only 16 states failing to provide statutory protections.
“We applaud Governor Quinn’s decision to put an end to the long and tragic history of involuntary sterilization by signing this long overdue legislation into law,” said Zena Naiditch, founder and CEO of Equip for Equality. “This step in the right direction is critical to the protection of the fundamental rights of people with disabilities.”
After obtaining a landmark decision in the Illinois Appellate Court upholding the denial of a petition for involuntary sterilization of a 26-year-old woman, Equip for Equality set to work on obtaining a permanent statewide policy change. In the court case, the young woman’s guardian sought to have her ward permanently sterilized. In the bench trial and in conversations with the guardian ad litem, the young woman, who had a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident at age eight, had made it clear she did not want to be sterilized.
“Sterilization is an extreme, irreversible measure. It impacts an individual’s constitutional rights to procreation and privacy,” said Marsha Koelliker, Equip for Equality’s Public Policy Director. “Now, under the new legislation, only a court may impose such a result on an adult ward with a disability, and only following a hearing in which the ward is afforded full due process protection.”
“Gov. Quinn’s signature will have a decisive impact on dignity and human rights,” said Katie Watson, Assistant Professor in the Medical Humanities & Bioethics Program at Northwestern University who worked with Equip for Equality on HB 2290. “Guardians and physicians are now prohibited from unscrutinized sterilization without a court order agreeing that it is in a person’s best’s interest.”
Among other things, HB 2290 amends the Illinois Probate Act by requiring: A guardian seeking to sterilize an adult ward to file a motion requesting the court’s authority to consent to such a procedure; Appointment of a guardian ad litem; A medical and psychological evaluation of the ward; A determination by the court of the ward’s capacity to consent or withhold consent to the proposed sterilization; and A court order that includes written findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Representative Kathleen A. Ryg introduced HB 2290 and was Chief Co-Sponsor in the House, along with Representatives JoAnn D. Osmond, Barbara Flynn Currie, Lou Lang and Sidney H. Mathis. Senator Heather Stearns picked up the bill in the Senate and was Chief Co-Sponsor along with Senators Michael Noland and Pamela J. Althoff. Equip for Equality worked in coalition with the Cook County Office of Public Guardian; Office of State Guardian; Feminist Response in Disability Activism; and the ACLU of Illinois. Equip for Equality appreciates their work and that of other organizations in supporting passage of the bill. The Chicago Foundation for Women provided crucial funding to support Equip for Equality’s lobbying efforts.
“I was honored to work on the legislation that protects the rights of persons with disabilities.”said Ryg, Chair of the House Disabilities Committee. HB2290 is a collaboration of experts and clarifies the commitment of the General Assembly to provide due process and self-determination for all of its citizens. We appreciate Gov. Quinn’s support in making this law.”
Equip for Equality, a private, not-for-profit legal advocacy organization, is the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System designated to safeguard the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities. A copy of HB 2290 can be found at www.ilga.gov.