June 18, 2003


Should the disabled be sterilised? Maybe only the ones who are members of the Australian Democrats. The ABC presented a program on this issue Monday night, and it wandered all over the place, lumping together the mentally incapacitated (unable to make such decisions) with articulate but physically compromised cerebral palsy sufferers (very able to make such decisions). Leave ‘em alone, I began to rant, when some shocking footage was shown involving an intellectually disabled fellow named Matthew Rushford:

DEBBI RUSHFORD, MOTHER: Matthew started working at the sheltered workshop in about July last year, I think it was, and Rhonda was already working there and that's where he met her. When Matthew started telling me that he had a new girlfriend, it was very interesting. It actually took Matthew two weeks to be able to remember what Rhonda's name was after he'd met her. He kept saying, "My girlfriend, my girlfriend. Um, what's her name?" As soon as I realised it was looking a bit more serious, I suggested to Matthew that if he thought he was likely to have sex with Rhonda he should make sure he had condoms, and asked him did he remember about using them. "Yes, yes, yes, you've told me." So I guess I was a bit surprised when it turned out that she was pregnant. I got home and he said, "Aren't you happy, Mum?" And I said, "Well, not really, Matthew."
JANINE COHEN: Why wasn't she happy that Rhonda was having your baby?
MATTHEW RUSHFORD: Oh, because I forgot wearing a condom.
JANINE COHEN: You forgot to wear a condom?
JANINE COHEN: How did you forget?
MATTHEW RUSHFORD: Um... Oh, um...I don't know. I forgot buying the condom and forgot putting it on.
JANINE COHEN: Do you think you should have had a baby, Matthew?

That wasn’t the shocking part; I’m fine with Matthew and Rhonda having a kid. But following this was footage of Matthew driving a car. If anyone here travels even five kilometres per hour over the posted limit, they’re regarded as such dangers that they must be fined; yet we’re apparently handing out driving licences to people who can’t remember their girlfriend’s name, have no idea whether they’ve done the right thing by having a child, and possess a mental age of about eight. Hey, I like disabled folks, but I also like sharing the road with people who won’t forget what a red light means.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 18, 2003 03:25 AM

can't/shouldn't having sex with someone who is mentally disabled and unable to make everyday decisions, let alone decisions of this nature, be the equivalent of rape?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at June 18, 2003 at 04:07 AM

Could be worse. In the U.S., they have braille on the keypads of DRIVE-thru ATM machines. (ATM machines = bank cash machines.) Too blind to read the numbers on the keypad of an ATM machine but not too blind to drive? I sure hope not.

Posted by: David Crawford at June 18, 2003 at 05:08 AM

yeah, that always cracks me up when i see it david...scares me too

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at June 18, 2003 at 05:33 AM

David Crawford: The braille is for passengers.

(Also, there's no point in making a special non-braille model of ATM for drive-throughs, which then can't ever be put in a non-drive-through location)

Posted by: Dave at June 18, 2003 at 05:33 AM

A family friend's mother had her driver's license in Texas until the day she died, at the age of 92. For the last five years, she had a handicap parking sticker -- her disability? She was legally (although not quite actually) blind.

Posted by: Andrew at June 18, 2003 at 08:18 AM

Back on the original topic, I think that the question boils down to whether one can reasonably expect the 2 parents to care for the child on their own. In cases like this, I think the answer is obviously "No", and I would not oppose sterilisation. It presents people like Matthew with responsibilities that they literally cannot cope with.

And that is the difference between Matthew and Rhonda and 2 teenagers of average intelligence getting it on. Yes, the odds are against them, but there is the ability to rise to the occasion. Matthews doesn't have the ability.

Posted by: Geoff Matthews at June 18, 2003 at 08:38 AM

Should stupid journalists have their fingers cut off and tongues cut out for the good of society?

Posted by: Paul K at June 18, 2003 at 10:52 AM

Good old communist nanny state backed by ABolshiCommunards at it again: this time, let's sterilise certain types for their own good.

Posted by: d at June 18, 2003 at 11:09 AM

Sterilisation would not be for THEIR own good, but maybe for the good of poor bloody taxpayers who are already footing the bill for assorted hillbillies and their numerous offspring. If they can support the child, fine- if not, they shouldn't be breeding. As parents, they would probably be no more useless than half the welfare dependant half-wits producing scores of unemployable offspring; I don't really give a shit what anyone does, as long as it's not on my tab. (I have found that most of those opposed to sterilisation of the profoundly disabled aren't the poor slobs who are lumbered with the outcome- the parents).

Posted by: paul bickford at June 18, 2003 at 11:35 AM

The Spartans got it right: expose all deformed babies at birth so society doesn't have any problem later on.

Obviously, Mr and Mrs Frank Crean weren't Spartans.

Posted by: Fred at June 18, 2003 at 02:40 PM

The Spartans probably got closer to real communism than anyone else. And I don't mean that as a compliment.

Posted by: Patrick at June 18, 2003 at 06:42 PM

Of course they can raise this child. Have we learned nothing from Sean Penn movies?

Posted by: Sean E at June 19, 2003 at 06:12 AM

I felt the lumping together of those with different disabilities was sloppy work on the part of the ABC.

Forgetting to wear a condom, not coming up with a decent excuse, and forgetting the woman's name? Heck, if that qualifies as mental retardation then half the Aussie male population would qualify.

As for driving, in NSW at least there's a road quiz component.

As for the Spartans ... I'd probably rather be a Spartan than an Athenian. (Did anyone else see the recent series in "Compass"?)

Posted by: Andjam at June 21, 2003 at 02:46 AM


The Spartans got it right: expose all deformed babies at birth so society doesn't have any problem later on.

Yeah, sounds great... unless you happen to be one of these deformed people. Thanks for suggesting I should have been killed, asshole.

Posted by: Varenius at June 22, 2003 at 03:36 PM

If anyone here travels even five kilometres per hour over the posted limit, they’re regarded as such dangers that they must be fined..

What amazed me in Oz was that the intercity buses are largely mechanically limited to 100 kph. Being in a coach that was putting along on the highway at around 60 mph was quite painful, to say the least. :)

Posted by: Bashir Gemayel at June 25, 2003 at 01:55 AM