Vasectomy or jail: A Virginia man’s choice

Last month, an Ohio appeals court upheld a decision barring Asim Taylor from having more children until he paid nearly $100,000 in overdue child support for the ones he already has. He had been put on probation for five years — and forbidden from reproducing during that time.

Now there’s Jessie Lee Herald — a 27-year-old Virginia man who allegedly fathered seven children with six different women. And, as part of a plea deal that will shorten by up to five years his prison term in a child endangerment case, he agreed to get a vasectomy.

Shenandoah County Assistant Prosecutor Ilona White said her motive in making the deal was to keep him from fathering more children.

“He needs to be able to support the children he already has when he gets out,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

Herald was sentenced this month to 20 months in prison for child endangerment, hit and run and driving on a suspended license in a crash in which police said his 3-year-old son was bloodied but okay, the AP said.

The agreement, offered earlier this month, states Herald must have the procedure within a year of his release. It also states that he cannot reverse the vasectomy while he is on probation. And he will have to pay for it.

But some argue that this unusual plea agreement is reminiscent of the 20th century’s eugenics programs in which a handful of states forcibly performed surgical sterilizations on thousands deemed genetically inferior.

“This takes on the appearance of social engineering,” Steve Benjamin of Richmond, past president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the AP.

White disputed any suggestion that the deal has similarities to eugenics.

“I would never agree with that line of thinking. That was nowhere in my thought process,” White told the AP.

And Herald’s attorney, Charles Ramsey, agreed.

“I understand the comparison, but I don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “That’s kind of exaggerating it.”

Still, Benjamin, who told the AP he was speaking in general terms and not about a specific case, said a vasectomy should not be a factor in a plea deal.

“Sentencing conditions are designed to prevent future criminal behavior,” he said. “Fathering children is not criminal behavior.”

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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