October 9, 2007 - A Pennsylvania appeals court recently overturned a family court judge's order that a drug-addicted homeless couple not have any more children.
Back in 2004, Judge Marilyn O'Connor said that Stephanie Pendleton and Rodney Evers could not have any more children until they met a few requirements. Primarily, O'Connor told the couple that they could not procreate until they got back their four children from foster care. Sadly, three of the couple's children tested positive for cocaine at birth.
O'Connor also ordered the couple to undergo drug addiction treatment, attend parent counseling classes and seek family planning services. O'Connor wrote in her opinion at the time that all babies deserve more than parents who can't take care of or even parent them and described the parental negligence displayed in this case as being an "immense burden" on the children and society.
With that said, Pendleton challenged the ruling with the support of the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief and asserted in the appeal that O'Connor's ruling basically required Pendleton, now 38, to either stop having sex, to start using birth control or to get sterilized.
After examining the appeal and O'Connor's 2004 ruling, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently found that the judge had overstepped her bounds. Specifically, the panel wrote that the family court had absolutely no authority to stop Pendleton from procreating.
The panel specifically shot down a portion of O'Co nnor's opinion claiming that she had the power to enforce a procreation ban. O'Connor had asserted that she had the right to call for a "no pregnancy order" for Pendleton based on a law allowing a judge to impose medical treatment.
The panel found that to be not true, asserting that the law allowing a judge to impose medical treatment does not include the power to implement and enforce a "no pregnancy" order.
While the appeals decision lifted the procreation ban, it did not affect O'Connor's other rulings in the case. O'Connor had found that all four of the couple's children were neglected and also ruled that both Pendleton and Evers be stripped of their parental rights.
All four of the homeless couple's children are in new homes and hopefully getting much better treatment that what they had to deal with in the past.