Ohio Supreme Court Rules Man Can’t Be Ordered to Abstain From Procreation

The Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus, home of the Ohio Supreme Court. (Photo via Sixflashphoto/Wikipedia Commons)

(CN) — A father convicted of failing to support his 11 children cannot be prohibited from making it a dozen, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Friday in a 6-1 decision.

London Chapman was convicted in six combined criminal cases and sentenced to community control, or probation. One of its provisions was “to make all reasonable efforts to avoid impregnating a woman during the community control period” or until he could prove that he was supporting his 11 kids.

At the time of his sentence, Chapman owed over $200,000 in child support.

Chapman appealed, arguing that the sentence violated his constitutional right to procreate. The appeals court disagreed, stating that the provision was reasonably related to a rehabilitative purpose.

The Ohio Supreme Court overruled the appeals court in a decision written by Justice R. Patrick DeWine.

DeWine stated that the court must apply the test of “whether a community-control condition reasonably relates to the offense at issue, furthers the twin goals of rehabilitation and justice, and does not cause a greater deprivation of liberty than is necessary to achieve those penological goals.”

Ultimately, he decided that the restriction on Chapman procreating was not related to the goals of community control.

“The criminality of Chapman’s conduct is separate from the number of children he has. While his obligation might increase with more children, his ability to pay is separate,” DeWine wrote.

According to the statute, Chapman can comply with Ohio law if he pays what he can afford.

DeWine offered several employment-related provisions the trial court could have imposed.

“It might have ordered him to participate in job training, placed him in a program that would ensure that he was working and that child support was being deducted from his paycheck, required that he undergo education in financial planning and management, or placed restrictions on his spending,” he wrote.

Justice Judith French dissented from her colleagues.

She stated that the court’s test “requires that the community-control condition have some relationship to the crimes of which the offender was convicted. It is difficult to imagine how fathering dependents that the law mandates Chapman to support does not have some relationship to the criminal act of failing to pay court-ordered support for his dependents.”

The Ohio Supreme Court remanded the case to the Lorain County Court for the removal of the anti-procreation provision.

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