California Superior Court Judge Howard Broadman's decision to use the new Norplant birth control device as a means of punishment {"Judge Orders Birth Control Implant," news story, Jan. 5} is a blatant violation of women's rights to privacy.

It is startling that any judge could force a woman to undergo surgery that would render her sterile for three years as a sentence for child beating -- a crime that men regularly commit without suffering any reproductive penalties. This upsetting case is similar to another controversial issue. Judge Broadman's decision, unfortunate though it is, highlights and clarifies the fundamental rights involved in the continuing debate on abortion.

Throughout the past decade, "pro-life" advocates have sought to undermine women's constitutional rights to privacy by attempting to end the choice of abortion. Although abortion-rights advocates have consistently argued that the woman's right to choose to abort a fetus is one of her primary rights of privacy, opponents have repeatedly focused on the viability of a fetus, rather than on each woman's right to choose what to do with her body. Judge Broadman's decision seems to breach this same constitutional right in a more blatant manner.

The violation of the right to privacy inherent in forced birth control is much more obvious than the same violation inherent in the attempts of pro-life advocates to force women to carry all pregnancies to term. This case thus illuminates the right to privacy, which protects every woman's right to control her body to choose to reproduce or to abort.


I applaud the decision of Judge Howard Broadman to order the use of Norplant in the case of Darlene Johnson. He has taken an important step toward preventing an abusive parent from abusing another child, who is yet unborn. Norplant is the ideal contraceptive for the brainless people (of all races and socioeconomic groups) who have unprotected sex and bring unwanted children into this world only to beat them.

For all the smug ACLU lawyers preparing to leap to Darlene Johnson's defense, I ask, what is more just, allowing this woman to bear children and abuse them in the name of protecting her rights, or thinking of and defending the unspoken rights of the abused children?

I am weary of and sickened by the extent of child abuse in this country. Judge Broadman is taking an important step, and others should follow suit.