When Britney Spears testified that she’s on birth control against her will, abortion activists championed her case in the name of “reproductive freedom” and “bodily autonomy.” But pro-life figures recognized it as something else: a “severe human rights abuse.”
On June 23, the pop star made headlines after pleading with a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to end the conservatorship that has placed her under her father’s control for the past 13 years. In 2008, after Britney suffered from a public breakdown, Jamie Spears legally assumed control of his daughter’s life and finances. His involvement continued as she released new albums and even performed during a Las Vegas residency. For years, Britney has fought to break free. Now, her struggle is receiving renewed attention.
One of Britney’s more shocking statements came when she told Judge Brenda Penny that she isn’t allowed to have another child.
“I want to have the real deal, I want to be able to get married and have a baby,” the 39-year-old star said. “I was told right now in the conservatorship, I’m not able to get married or have a baby. I have an IUD inside of myself right now so I don’t get pregnant. I wanted to take the IUD out so I could start trying to have another baby. But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children — any more children. So basically, this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.”
Since then, legal experts have confirmed that Britney’s situation is possible – and legal – under a conservatorship.
“Technically, they’re in control of all facets of her life, so yes, it is legal,” attorney Sarah J. Wentz, a partner at the firm Fox Rothschild, who specializes in conservatorships, told Variety on June 25.
In response to Britney’s statement, abortion activists claimed her cause as their own in the name of “reproductive freedom” – and tied it to abortion “rights.”
“Everyone has the right to make these most intimate of decisions of if and when to have children,” Ruth Dawson, the principal policy associate at Guttmacher Institute, told Refinery29 on June 24. “Forcing someone to be on birth control against their will is a violation of basic human rights and bodily autonomy, just as forcing someone to become or stay pregnant against their will would be.”
NARAL added in a tweet on June 23, “The freedom to choose if, when, and how to start or grow a family is the core of reproductive freedom. To deny someone that choice is a violation of their most fundamental freedoms.”
Likewise, Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood, announced that same day, “We stand in solidarity with Britney and all women who face reproductive coercion.”
“Your reproductive health is your own — and no one should make decisions about it for you,” she said.
But pro-life advocates stressed that Britney’s case isn’t a “pro-choice” issue or related to abortion. According to Catholic priest Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, “Forcing a woman to wear an IUD when she wants a child is neither pro-life nor ‘pro-choice.’”
He called Britney’s situation “horrendous” and recognized it as “some weird form of modern slavery.”
“If Brittney Spears is well enough to perform on stage, which she has done, she's well enough not to be under conservatorship,” he tweeted on June 23. As a priest who identifies as autistic, he saw it as an issue of “disability rights.”
“If a person is well enough to hold a job (let alone headline a Vegas show), they don't need conservatorship! Conservatorship is meant for those completely unable to take care of themselves in any way, like for a parent with dimentia & a few months to live,” he added.
“It's oppressive when those above you won't let you have children, whether it's the Chinese state with their 1 or 2 child policies or Brittney Spears' dad forcing her to wear an IUD against her will,” he tweeted.
Lila Rose, the president of pro-life group Live Action, also spoke up.
“Why has the state of California been enabling this woman’s abusers?” she asked on June 24. “What Britney is enduring is criminal.”
“Forcing someone to have an IUD stuck in their body is a severe human rights abuse,” she added in another tweet. “No rationale ever justifies it, and using mental health or disability as an excuse is an added injustice.”
It’s barbaric to control another human person’s body – her fertility – with forced birth control. But opposing that should be incomparable to supporting abortion, which always ends a human life.