People v. Johnson (1990): The Significance of Gender, Race and Class in Restricting Reproductive Rights
Patricia Lee Charlemagne
Thesis DT 3.5 1998 C437
vii, 164 leaves: ill.; 29 cm.
On January 2, 1991, Darlene Johnson became the first parent convicted of child abuse to receive a court-imposed order to use the surgically implanted contraceptive Norplant as a condition to probation in People v. Johnson. Hence, Ms. Johnson's experience has become part of a longstanding history of restricting maternal autonomy and reproductive rights among poor African American women in the United States. Johnson's role in this historical continuum reveals how and why a contraceptive method intended to liberate all women, across racial and class boundaries, continues to be used to deny poor African American women their constitutional rights and civil liberties.
This thesis will focus on Johnson and the impact of judicial decisions on economically, politically, and socially oppressed women. Situating Ms. Johnson's story within the legacy of slavery and current forms of institutional racism, underscores the need to challenge emergent public policies which make the use of Norplant a condition to receive public assistance benefits or which offer cash incentives to public assistance recipients in exchange for "voluntary" participation in Norplant programs. In so far as Johnson discusses the ways in which these policies attempt to perpetuate the coercive use of contraceptives as a solution to poverty and criminality, it is a useful case study.