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While partisan gridlock has become a staple in Washington, D.C., there is an issue uniting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle: pop star Britney Spears’ legal battle against her conservatorship.
From progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lawmakers with vastly different political philosophies have shared their support for Spears.
Spears’ guardianship arrangement dates back to 2008 following her mental health crises, and enabled her father, Jamie Spears, to exert control over her personal decisions as well as her estimated $60 million fortune.
“The people who did that to me should not be able to walk away so easily,” Spears said in a leaked audio recording of her call in June to a Los Angeles Superior Court.
Spears alleged she’s been exploited, bullied, and abused during the 13-year conservatorship, citing an incident where she was prescribed lithium, a mood stabilizing drug, after she refused to do a show in Las Vegas.
“I felt drunk,” she described. “I told them I was scared and my doctor had me on — six different nurses with this new medication come to my home, stay with me to monitor me on this new medication, which I never wanted to be on to begin with.”
In February, The New York Times released Framing Britney Spears, a documentary that highlighted Spears’ career, tabloid exploitation, and mental health struggles that led to the conservatorship. The documentary renewed calls to “Free Britney,” with fans arguing Spears’ continued work — releasing albums, performing, and judging The X Factor — prove her ability to manage her own personal and professional affairs.
The film also prompted lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum to issue support for the star.
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Texas Republican Sen. Cruz has expressed support for Spears, saying he’s “squarely and unequivocally in the camp of Free Britney.”
“I think this is freaking ridiculous what is happening to Britney Spears, and it needs to end,” he said on his podcast Verdict with Ted Cruz.
Democratic Sens. Warren and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania sent a letter earlier this month to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, asking for the data on conservatorships and guardianship arrangements.
“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, typically older Americans and Americans with intellectual, developmental, and mental health disabilities,” the letter reads.
“Despite these concerns, comprehensive data regarding guardianship (referred to as conservatorship in some states) in the United States are substantially lacking—hindering policymakers and advocates’ efforts to understand gaps and abuses in the system and find ways to address them.”
Back in March, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., sent a letter to Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., requesting a hearing on conservatorship abuse pegged to Spears’ case.
“In recent years, there has been growing public concern about the use of conservatorships to effectively deprive individuals of personal freedoms at the behest of others through the manipulation of the courts,” the letter read, later noting the “most striking example” of such abuse is Spears.
Gaetz is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice, as well as the House Ethics Committee, over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, which could violate federal sex trafficking laws.
Gaetz has been one of Spears’ most vocal defenders on Capitol Hill, likening the grip conservatorships can exert on someone’s life to “slavery” in a June interview with OAN.
Britney Spears wants to tell her story to the world.
She wants to use the experiences that have happened to her to cause broader change, and I think we ought to give her that opportunity in the United States Congress. #FreeBritney pic.twitter.com/dggL8PES1o
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) June 25, 2021
In a recent House Judiciary Committee markup, Gaetz reiterated his call to hold a hearing on conservatorship and that the “very first witness…should be Britney Spears.”
Despite support for Spears on both sides of the aisle, it doesn’t appear that lawmakers are keen on working together on the issue.
Gaetz, along with three other House Republicans, sent a letter to Spears on June 30, inviting her to testify before Congress. No Democrats were listed.
Another aspect of Spears’ testimony that elicited strong reaction from lawmakers was her allegation that she’s prevented by her conservatorship from removing her IUD, a birth control device, in order to have a baby.
“It’s insane you can force a woman to basically sterilize herself under the guise of protection,” tweeted Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C.
It’s insane you can force a woman to basically sterilize herself under the guise of protection. If this is happening to Britney Spears, how many other women across the country are silently suffering? https://t.co/A7dRoEylPN
— Rep. Nancy Mace (@RepNancyMace) June 24, 2021
The No. 4 House Democrat, Rep. Katherine Clark, agreed, tweeting: “Everyone deserves control over their own body. Period.”
Spears’ conservatorship case is ongoing, with another hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.