Britney Spears, Conservatorships, and Reproductive Freedom

By: Anna Vander Kooi

On June 23, 2021, Britney Spears offered her testimony to the court pertaining to her high-profile conservatorship that began thirteen years ago.[1] In this conservatorship, Spears’ personal life and finances were under the discretion of her father, James Spears, with whom the singer has had a tumultuous relationship. There were many jarring moments throughout her 23-minute speech, as she accused her conservators of putting her on heavy medication, forcing her to perform, and withholding the money she’s earned.[2]  What’s more, Spears claimed that her reproductive rights were compromised through the conservatorship. “I was told right now in the conservatorship, I’m not able to get married or have a baby,” she testified, according to a New York Times transcript.[3] “I have a ID [IUD] inside of myself right now so I don’t get pregnant. I wanted to take the ID [IUD] out so I could start trying to have another baby. But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children, any more children.”[4] Spears’s revelation that she has been subject to forced methods of birth control caused waves within the public. While her accusations were shocking to hear, her experience of limited reproductive freedom is by no means uncommon for individuals under a conservatorship or otherwise deemed disabled. There are several cases that demonstrate the reproductive restraints that conservators have been permitted to oversee for disabled people.[5]

Spears’ case represents an intersection between the issues of reproductive rights and disability rights. While Spears may have delivered her testimony in 2021, it has caused many to recall a Supreme Court case that dates back to 1927. In Buck v. Bell, the Court ruled that a Virginia statue which authorized the sterilization of Carrie Buck, a woman committed to a mental institution, did not violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.[6],[7] The opinion written by Justice Holmes stated that the world would be better off if, through the sterilization of people like Buck, “society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”[8] These words may strike modern readers as incredibly ignorant; however, their sentiment remains true today if conservatorships allow individuals like Britney Spears to be denied their reproductive rights as a result of their perceived disabilities. As a result of Spears’ case, the public has begun to reconsider the means through which disabled people can maintain their reproductive freedoms. According to an article on JDSupra, conservators and guardians are given the authority to make healthcare decisions for the incapacitated person.[9] While what James Spears chose for his daughter appears unethical and possibly illegal, it was technically within the boundaries of Britney Spears’ conservatorship to put on birth control at her father’s discretion.

Will what has been widely deemed conservatorship abuse towards Britney Spears translate into legislation that will protect the rights of lesser-known victims? In direct response to Spears’ revelation, lawmakers have begun to turn their attention towards limiting a conservator’s control over the reproductive rights of those under their care. Representative Jason Smith introduced a bill in the House titled the Conservatorships Immoral Relationship with Contraception in the United States Act (CIRCUS Act). The bill is designed to discourage healthcare providers from supporting conservator control as it relates to reproductive health. The CIRCUS Act would involve amending Title XI of the Social Security Act to exclude health care providers who perform forced contraception on individuals subject to conservatorship from federal health care programs.[10] As of July, this bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Health by the Ways and Means Committee.[11] Though it’s unclear whether the bill will be passed and become law, several political figures have expressed their discontent with the handling of Spears’ conservatorship. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bob Casey wrote a letter in which they stated: “Ms. Spears’ case has shined a light on longstanding concerns from advocates who have underscored the potential for financial and civil rights abuses of individuals placed under guardianship or conservatorship.”[12]

Britney Spears’ public legal battle has led us to further investigate conservatorships as they stand today. It’s causing people to consider modifications that would better protect individuals under a conservatorship, especially as it pertains to their medical freedom. Even if the CIRCUS Act fails to become law, this bill serves as a symbol of the shift in lawmakers’ relationship towards conservatorships. In the case of Britney Spears at least, a conservatorship caused greater debilitation than the struggles that placed her under one in the first time. In her testimony, Spears affirmed that, “So basically, this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.”[13] The limits to reproductive freedom suffered by those in a conservatorship are finally receiving the second look from legislators they’ve deserved, thanks in part to Britney Spears.


[1] Zoe Jones & Justin Bey, Britney Spears’ Conservatorship, Explained, CBS News (July 13, 2021 6:06 PM),

[2] Emma Nolan, Britney Spears And Lithium-What Are The Side Effects?, NEWSWEEK (July 24, 2021 9:56 AM EDT),

[3] Julia Jacobs & Sarah Bahr, The Britney Spears Transcript, Annotated: ‘Hear What I Have to Say’, N.Y. TIMES (June 24, 2021),

[4] Id.

[5] Sara Luterman, For Women Under Conservatorship, Forced Birth Control is Routine, THE NATION (July 15, 2021),

[6] Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927).

[7] U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1.

[8] Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927).

[9] Ann Hetherwick Cahill, Guardianship and Conservatorship: Relationship with Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney, JD SUPRA (Sept. 25, 2020),

[10] Conservatorships Immoral Relationship with Contraception in the United States Act, H.R. 4438, 117th CONG. § 2 (2021).

[11] “Subcommittee on Health (117th Congress).” House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Accessed January 4, 2022.

[12] Abigail Abrams, Exclusive: Elizabeth Warren, Bob Casey Ask For Data on Conservatorships After Britney Spears Testimony, TIME (Jul. 1, 2021),

[13] Julia Jacobs & Sarah Bahr, The Britney Spears Transcript, Annotated: ‘Hear What I Have to Say’, N.Y. TIMES (June 24, 2021),