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7 Cap. U. L. Rev. 117 (1977-1978)
A Constitutional Right of Sterilization: Ponter v. Ponter

handle is hein.journals/capulr7 and id is 129 raw text is: A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF STERILIZATION:
There has been an increased recognition of women's fundamental
rights by the courts of this country in the last several years. One of
these fundamental rights is that of a woman to decide whether or not
to bear children. The New Jersey Superior Court in Ponter v. Ponter,'
(hereinafter cited as Ponter) recognized such a right when it held that
a woman may obtain a voluntary nontherapeutic sterilization without
the consent of her husband. The court relied upon the landmark cases
of Roe v. Wade' (hereinafter cited as Wade) and Doe v. Bolton3
(hereinafter cited as Bolton) to establish a starting point for its
analysis. The precedent set by the two abortion cases, Wade and
Bolton, was that a woman has a constitutional right, emanating from
the Bill of Rights, to control her reproductive functions. In examining
the abortion-related decisions, the Ponter court stated that a hierarchy
of rights is developing: the paramount rights of the mother, followed
by the rights of the father, and finally, the rights of the fetus. The
court concluded that, since it has been held that a woman has a right
to an abortion and other operations without her husband's consent, a
logical and natural extension of those rights is the constitutional right
to be sterilized without her husband's consent.
Plaintiff Judith Ponter and defendant John Ponter were married
but had been separated since 1969. Three children were born during
the period they cohabitated. While Judith was pregnant and due to
give birth to another child not fathered by her husband, she unilateral-
ly decided that she wished to be sterilized after the birth of her fourth
child. The other plaintiffs in this declaratory judgment action were
Judith's gynecologists and the professional association with which they
were affiliated, Westwood Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates.
Judith wished to have one of the doctors perform the sterilization one
day after her delivery, the most economical and efficient time to have
it performed. The doctors refused to perform the sterilization opera-
tion unless she obtained the consent of her husband, John Ponter.
However, he refused to consent. Gynecologists and obstetricians in
New Jersey generally required spousal consent prior to a sterilization
1. 135 N.J. Super. 50, 342 A.2d 574 (1975).
2. 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
3. 410 U.S. 179 (1973).

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