Woman bargains reproductive rights for lighter sentence

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By Marie E. Matyjaszek

Bargaining is a regular occurrence in life, as negotiation and compromise are crucial to achieving acceptable outcomes. We’ve all given something to get something in return.

For Summer Creel of Oklahoma, she took the matter to a new level, giving up her reproductive rights in order to receive a reduced prison sentence.

Ms. Creel is a 34-year-old mother of seven, who was convicted of using a counterfeit check at Walmart.

No stranger to arrest, Creel has seen her parental rights to six of her seven children terminated on account of her repeated trips through the court system on a laundry list of charges. She has a long history of using crack cocaine and methamphetamine, and tested positive for meth use as recently as December 2017.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot noted that Creel’s drug abuse corresponded with when she was pregnant, stating that “with the dates of birth of her seven children, it appears highly likely that some of Ms. Creel’s children were conceived, carried and born while Ms. Creel was a habitual user of these illicit substances.”

The judge added: “It comes as no surprise, therefore, that, in 2012, Ms. Creel relinquished her parental rights with respect to six of her seven children ‘after an Oklahoma Department of Human Services investigation for failure to protect the children from harm.’ Her seventh child was born in 2016.”

Creel was facing up to 10 years in federal prison for the counterfeit check crime, but Judge Friot came up with what he believed was a “win-win” solution to her continued troubles. If Creel agreed to be medically sterilized, thereby preventing any future pregnancy, he would reduce her sentence on the bad check conviction.

Both the Assistant U.S. Attorney and Creel’s defense attorney agreed that she was interested in being medically sterilized prior to the judge’s suggestion, and did so freely in November 2017.  Honoring his word, Judge Friot in February sentenced Creel to one year in federal prison and three years of supervised release. She also was ordered to pay more than $15,000 in restitution. 

The case, not surprisingly, has sparked controversy with critics claiming that the judge’s suggestion stirs echoes of forced sterilization programs in various states and unfairly targets women.

Friot has defended his actions, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court "has yet to recognize a constitutional right to bring crack- or methamphetamine-addicted babies into this world."  I guess that is all the justification the court needed.

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The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court. Email her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.
 

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