Family Court Judge Michael “Mickey” Foellger of Newport, Ky., requires deadbeat dads who want to avoid jail to undergo vasectomies. The Cincinnati Enquirer says he is one of a handful of judges nationwide placing restrictions on men’s rights to father children. The judges are fed up with men who refuse to take responsibility for kids they help produce. They say drastic action is needed to curb mounting delinquent child-support payments – now $1.4 billion in Kentucky and $4.1 billion in Ohio. The movement is raising serious constitutional questions. While no one has challenged Foellger’s sentencing in Kentucky, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments May 11 on whether a judge acted properly when he ordered a man who owed $40,000 in child support to his seven children not to get anyone pregnant for five years. Foellger doesn’t order men to get vasectomies but offers that as an option in some civil contempt cases. If a man has four or more children by three or more women, and he’s $10,000 behind in child support, he might be allowed to undergo a vasectomy rather than spend up to six months in jail. The judge says six men have taken him up on the offer since January 2003; only one opted for jail.
Ken Easterling, chief prosecutor in the Kenton County, supports Foellger. “I do not support abortion, but society has to come up with a way to get adults to think before they start popping kids out right and left,” Easterling says. “At some point in time, rather than taxpayers paying out thousands to support unwanted kids, a more radical method needs to be utilized.” Attorney Rebecca Miles of Pittsburgh studied judges regulating procreation last year 2003 while a student at Washington and Lee University. An Oregon appeals court upheld a procreation condition in 1998 when it ordered a child abuser not to have any more children until he successfully completed drug-treatment and anger-management programs. The case and one in Wisconsin contradict almost 30 years of case law in which appeals courts consistently invalidated putting limits on having children, she said.