Jailbird Asks For IVF
Kimberley Castles, who is serving time for making fraudulent welfare claims worth $140,000 in payments, has begun legal action against prison authorities to allow her to receive IVF treatment during her time in jail. Castles turns 46 in seven months and will then be deemed ineligible for IVF treatment. She wants one last chance at having a baby, so she plans to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Kimberley is being held at a minimum security facility called Tarrengower Prison and is allowed to keep her two year-old daughter with her. She has been pressing authorities to allow her to self-finance IVF treatment. But so far, permission has been withheld. Meantime, Castles says that withholding the treatment means that the prison authorities have broken the law as set forth in the Charter of Human Rights.
"It is unlawful for [prison officials] to act in a way that is incompatible with a human right," argues Castle's legal team. "The charter provides that Kimberley has the right not to have family unlawfully or arbitrarily interfered with ... It is unlawful discrimination to prevent Kimberley from accessing the treatment which she requires to conceive."
Her lawyers assert that the charter grants Castles the right to decide the size of her own family, even though she is imprisoned. Moreover, so they claim, Castle's daughter has the right to brothers and sisters, while Castle's partner has the right to have an additional child.
Ron Merkel, Ms. Castle's lawyer says that Kimberley's infertility is a medical condition and it is her right to receive IVF treatment for said condition. "The power the department has is the ability to destroy her reproductive health and to bring it to an end for no reason. This power is being abused. The Department of Justice seems to have adopted a one-child policy," said Merkel.
Prison authorities told the courts they are worried that if Castle receives IVF treatment this will set a precedent in which other prisoners will expect the same and coordinating visits to the clinic will be become burdensome to manage. Tarrengower does allow conjugal visits and the prison has seen four births so far this year.
Castles was convicted for welfare fraud in November of 2009 and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment with a minimum of 18 months to be served. Between 1984 and 1998, Castle claimed almost 140,000 in bogus single-parent welfare benefits, and then claimed even more benefits under a different name between 2000 and 2006. Come November, Castles will be eligible to serve out the rest of her sentence at home. For now, she has been granted regular trips outside the prison and requires no supervision during these jaunts.