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On the morning of October 19, 1927, the Commonwealth of Virginia sterilized Carrie Buck. Dr. John Bell — whose name would forever be linked with Carrie’s in the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell — cut her open and removed a section from each of her Fallopian tubes. In his notes, Dr. Bell noted that “this was the first case operated on under the sterilization law.”
We know Carrie’s story because her case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. But to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the 1920s, Carrie was just another congenitally “feeble-minded” woman who, in the parlance of the times, had a tainted “germ plasm” that would create generations of “socially inadequate defectives” if she were allowed to procreate freely. Carrie is the most famous of the at least 60,000 Americans who were forcibly sterilized in order to “cleanse the race” of undesirable genes.
Yet, even today, many law professors seem to want to sweep Buck v. Bellunder the rug. They’d rather talk about Lochner v. New York — when the Court overturned New York’s maximum work hour law as a violation of the liberty of contract — than Buck v. Bell. Judges are still said to be “Lochnerizing” when they are accused of legislating from the bench, but we don’t have a similar adjective form of Buck.
Read full, original post: The United States Once Sterilized Tens of Thousands— Here’s How the Supreme Court Allowed It