Court to Ohio man: Stop fathering children

An Ohio judge’s order that a man owing tens of thousands of dollars in child support can father no more children until he is able to provide for the ones he has is getting a thumbs-up from some area residents and constitutionality questions from others.

On Wednesday, Lorain County Judge James Walther placed Asim Taylor, 35, of Elyria, on probation for five years after Taylor pleaded guilty to not paying child support since 2009, the Associated Press reported. He owes about $79,000. A condition of the probation is that he must avoid reproducing during that time, unless he shows he can support his four children.

If Taylor did father a child, he apparently could face jail time or some other criminal sanction.

“I understand the rationale behind it, but it’s kind of hard to force someone to be responsible,” said Waterford resident Jay Owens, 45. “What’s next? Forced sterilization?”

But Williamstown resident Dan Reid, 42, likens it to taking someone’s license after they drive drunk.

“Well, he’s breaking a law isn’t he?” Reid said. “If they’ve been proven they’re not going to be responsible with the rights they’re given … I don’t see anything wrong with them being told they don’t have those rights anymore.”

The ruling is not unprecedented. In December, a Racine County, Wis., judge sentenced a man not to have a 10th child until he could afford to care for the nine he had already. Earlier this month, in northwestern Wisconsin, another judge ordered a man not only to refrain from having children until he catches up on his child support but also required him to tell women, within three minutes of meeting them, that he’s a convicted felon with unpaid child support.

A similar 2004 Medina County ruling was overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court because it did not provide a mechanism for the defendant to regain his right to reproduce by paying overdue support. Taylor’s attorney has said he plans to appeal Wednesday’s ruling.

Local attorney Robin Bozian, with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, said the ruling “boggles the mind.”

“I don’t see how on Earth that would survive appellate scrutiny,” she said. “That’s a pretty basic, fundamental right that we all have. No one can force anybody to have fewer or more children.

“It just goes beyond what I think our courts should be doing,” Bozian said.

Marietta attorney Dennis Sipe said the ruling raises a number of questions.

“Is this something that we can apply uniformly across the board … to each person who stands in the same circumstances?” he said.

Sipe did not know the specifics of the Lorain County case, but said there are a number of potential extenuating circumstances. If a man who is subject to such an order has remarried, should his new wife be prohibited from having children unless she committed adultery or otherwise didn’t reproduce with the person she’d chosen – even if it wasn’t the best choice? Or if the mother of the unsupported children married a wealthy individual and her children did not need the support, would the penalty be as steep?

“You could just posit 25 different scenarios, and does it change the result?” Sipe said.

In some cases, a father may be making less money than he previously did due to injury or some other factor beyond his control, Sipe said. But his child support payments would be based on the higher amount and might not be able to be adjusted because he did not have legal representation when dealing with the complex system.

Sipe also referred to a 1965 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a Connecticut state law forbidding the use of contraceptives was unconstitutional.

The ruling stated “the overall penumbra of the Constitution was we really ought to stay out of certain areas,” he said. “Does this ruling invade the bedroom?”

Devola resident Jon Long, 30, said the constitutional implications give him pause, but ultimately he agrees with the judge’s decision.

“Your rights should extend until you’re actually hurting other people,” he said. “And if you’re having kids and you’re unable to support them, you’re actually hurting those kids.”