Is it appropriate to involuntarily sterilize a mentally disabled person? That's the question a British judge is mulling in the case of a 21-year-old, referred to as "P" in court documents, who is legally considered incapable of consenting to the procedure. She already has one child and another one is on the way. The woman's mother has asked the court for permission to have "P" sterilized to prevent future pregnancies -- she's the one who has to take care of these children, after all, and she can't afford to take on a third.

This follows on the heels of a UK judge bizarrely banning a 41-year-old man with a low IQ from having sex, and both cases have disability activists up in arms and tap into the long history of involuntary sterilization. Salon spoke with Doug Pet, senior program associate at the Center for Genetics and Society, a non-profit devoted to encouraging responsible use of reproductive technologies, in an attempt to untangle the complicated ethical issues raised by such rulings.

What do you make of this latest case in...