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When Britney Spears told a judge on Wednesday about her experience with her conservatorship—the legal arrangement that gave her father control over her finances and personal life—her words horrified the public.
“This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good,” she said, detailing how her legal guardians have dictated where she lives, works and receives therapy, stopped her from seeing friends, forced her to take medication against her will and prevented her from having her IUD removed so she could try to get pregnant. “I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does by having a child, a family, any of those things.”
But while Spears’ speech was shocking for many listeners, disability rights lawyers and advocates say what she described is not unusual for many conservatorships in the United States, which are typically instituted for elderly adults, people with mental illnesses or those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Spears is arguably the nation’s most high-profile conservatee, and people with disabilities who have been fighting to reform conservatorships for years now hope that the attention paid to her case can give momentum to the push to rethink the entire system.