Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Buck v. Bell Supreme Court decision, 1927

Some of the most egregious moral errors in U.S. history have come through the Supreme Court. Dred Scott. Separate but equal schooling. Interracial marriage outlawed. Japanese internment during WWII. Sodomy laws upheld. Dirty words ruling. Roe v. Wade.  Obamacare is legal because it is a tax.  And then there is sterilizing people thought to be substandard humans—like Carrie Buck.

“The plaintiff, Carrie Buck, a 17-year-old girl from Charlottesville, was the first person chosen for sterilization. Carrie had a child out of wedlock—likely as the result of a rape by a friend of her foster family. Since her mother was a prostitute, the Virginia Colony Asylum decided that Carrie should be institutionalized because she and her mother Emma shared the hereditary traits of “feeblemindedness” and sexual promiscuity. . .

“On appeal to United States Supreme Court, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a student of eugenics, wrote the formal opinion for the Court:

Carrie Buck is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization…. It is better for the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”18, p 208

School records prove that Carrie’s daughter Vivian was not feebleminded. Her first grade report card showed that Vivian was a solid “B” student, received an “A” in deportment, and had been on the honor roll.8, p 190 Sadly, she died at age 8 from enteritis—probably a preventable childhood disease. Carrie was released [from the asylum] and became a housekeeper and an avid reader, and she married a carpenter in 1932.

The Buck v. Bell precedent allowing sterilization of the “feebleminded” has never been overruled.”

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 19 Number 4 Winter 2014,  The ‘Science’ of Eugenics: America’s Moral Detour Marilyn M. Singleton, M.D., J.D.

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