The Law: Sterilized: Why?

Mary Alice Relf, now twelve, is mentally retarded, has a speech defect, and was born without a right hand. She has a sister named Minnie, 14, and as they grew old enough to attract boys, welfare workers steered them to a federally financed family planning center in Montgomery, Ala., where they received injections every three months of a drug called Depo-Provera, which was being tested as a contraceptive.

Last month, shortly after the drug was banned because of undesirable side effects, two nurses paid a visit to the shabby apartment where the Relfs live on $150 monthly welfare payments. Lonnie Relf, 56,...

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