Sprinkles from the Left

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.63 minutes to read.

[Britney] is not allowed to get her nails done or change the color of her kitchen cabinets; she is not allowed to drive, or to ride in her boyfriend’s car. More seriously, she referred repeatedly to being “punished” when she refused her conservators’ wishes. Under her conservatorship, Spears has been forced to work against her will and was forcibly institutionalized when she refused. She has not been permitted to choose her own lawyers or therapists. Most disturbingly, Spears is not allowed to refuse medications recommended by her conservators, not even the extremely strong psychiatric drug lithium. And though she says she wants to have another child, Spears is not allowed to remove her IUD…

In more than half of states, conservators are permitted to inflict not just long-term birth control, like Spears’ IUD, but permanent sterilizations on those deemed unfit to make the decisions for themselves. But who, exactly, gets deemed unfit? Sanity is a slippery thing and mental health a difficult status to assess: historically, many have been deemed insane for simply having unpopular opinions, or for behaving in ways that were offensive to common attitudes and contrary to convention. This is particularly true of women, who have a long history of being deemed insane for trivial reasons by those who are either committed to misogyny or interested in their money.

Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Absent the determination of some kind of permanent cognitive incapacity—like an actual hole in your head—I’d argue that something as restrictive as a forced conservatorship should be self-terminating: It should automatically lapse after a year or two or something. Instead, the law goes the other way: Conservatorships can last indefinitely until a court deems them no longer necessary. The court is supposed to send an inspector every year to determine if the conservatorship is still needed, and apparently the person overseeing the Spears case has determined that for the past 13 years Spears could sing and dance for millions of people but couldn’t be trusted to get a haircut…

“Other than that nameless functionary doing the right thing, the only other way for Spears to get out of it is to petition the court to end the conservatorship. According to Spears herself, she didn’t know that was an option… Obviously, the person who is supposed to know is not Spears but her lawyer. But even here, Spears was not free to make her own choice. Spears’s lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham, was appointed by the court, over Spears’s objection, 13 years ago. It’s not clear to me what Ingham has done for his client these 13 years, other than collect a check, but it sure seems like the #FreeBritney people have done more.

Elie Mystal, The Nation

Sprinkles from the Right

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.56 minutes to read.

Spears, who will be 40 this December, has been under her father’s conservatorship since 2008. Jamie Spears has controlled not only his daughter’s $60 million fortune but every aspect of her career and life — from terms of her Las Vegas residency to whether she could replace her kitchen cabinets… Conservatorships are typically granted only in extreme cases: A person is suffering from dementia or some other dire limitations. Spears, a mother of two, has successfully performed in Vegas for years without incident. How hapless can she be?…

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out now, post-#MeToo. Here we have a ‘troublesome female’ — a child star sexualized as a young teenager, who shot to global superstardom, the media hounding her over whether she was still a virgin, a girl whose every relationship, parents included, was based on what she could do for them — claiming that her father has forcibly institutionalized her and forced her to perform against her will, once as she suffered from a 104-degree fever… Historically we’ve seen a lot of erratic, self-destructive behavior from male celebrities. Can you think of one who has been kept under conservatorship for years — or ever?

Maureen Callahan, New York Post

Step back and ask yourself: Should we be able, even temporarily, to sterilize a woman against her will on grounds of being mentally unwell? There are grave problems of both morality and individual liberty with that… I cannot see what argument there could be for a court in the United States of America to sanction a regime under which an adult woman who is well enough to ply her trade in society can be forced to carry a contraceptive implant she does not want. This is one area on which pro-lifers and conservative Christians should be in complete agreement with Planned Parenthood, which issued a statement supporting Spears…

We should also be asking: If our legal system can do this to Britney Spears, how many other women is it happening to? The California supreme court, in the 1985 decision Conservatorship of Valerie N, concluded that there was a constitutional right to choose sterilization, and reasoned that a woman who was mentally disabled and incapable of making her own decisions should have a right to have her conservators decide that she be sterilized… the high-profile nature of [this] case should be an occasion for us to rethink the scope of what the law allows to be done to women’s capacity to bear children.

Dan McLaughlin, National Review