Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 2: Supreme Court rules on Eugenics

On this date in History .... 1927:  

“Three generations of imbeciles are enough!” 

Those were the famous words of Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes when the Supreme Court decided the case of Buck v. Bell, ruling that eugenics laws (laws permitting sterilization) of the unfit, “including the mentally retarded” did not violate the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment, upholding as constitutional Virginia’s compulsory sterilization of young women considered “unfit to continue their kind.”  The decision has been viewed as “the attempt to improve the human race by eliminating ‘defectives’ from the gene pool.” 

The mother, daughter and granddaughter in this case were considered “feeble-minded and promiscuous” and the court accepted that as reason for sterilization.  It has been since argued that Carrie Buck was not “feeble-minded” but was put away to hide the scandal of having been raped by her adoptive mother’s nephew and was instead labeled as promiscuous when she ended up pregnant.

(Watch for my May 9th post with more background on the eugenics topic.)

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