Eugenics and the Supreme Court Case of Buck vs. Bell

Paper Type: 
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1239 Words
Date:  2021-03-15

Women all over the world face many issues in the society and they require to overcome those issues. Sterilization by force is one of the issues which they need to overcome. Sterilization is the process of finishing one's ability to reproduce without the consent of the person. Sterilization processes cases occurred all over the world United States being one of the leading countries in the early 20th century. In t United States, eugenics science was applied to uphold sterilization process. Eugenics is a science that is applied to improve the hereditary qualities of the human race or the human breed through controlled breeding. If one got a child outside the wedlock, the US law amended in 1924 required him or her to get sterilized. One would get sterilized so as to maintain best interest of the society and ones best interest. In this regard, one would be made incapable of reproducing an offspring. In Virginia, a state from United States passed a legislation that provided the sterilization of the feeble-minded persons on the basis that those genes would be hereditary to the next offspring.

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Summary of the case: Carrie Buck was daughter to Emma, they were both committed to the Virginia state court where they were judged Feeble-Minded and promiscuous as they both had children outside the wedlock. Carrie Bucks child Vivian was judged Feebleminded at the age of seven months. It was argued that Vivian was showed some backwardness and that she was not a normal child. Carrie Buck was committed with her mother to the colony of Virginia for Feeble-Minded and Epileptics. Both Buck and her mother Emma were judged to be promiscuous and Feeble-Minded based on the facts that they had children outside the wedlock. The then superintendent of the colony Dr.Priddy testified that Bucks family members belonged to the ignorant, shiftless and worthless class of the anti-social whites. In the case, Dr.Bell conducted the case proceedings against Curie Bucks after his successor Prindy passed away as a result of cancer when the law was making its way through the court system. Bell used the same justification as his predecessor. The board of Directors gave an order for Carrie Buck sterilization and then her guardian made an appeal of the case in the Amherst County Circuit Court where the decision of the board was sustained. Then case proceeded to the Supreme Court of appeal in Virginia. The supreme court of appeal in Virginia also sustained sterilization law. The case then went to the supreme court of the United States. In the Supreme Court of the United States the case was heard by a bench of nine judges. Carrie Buck and her guardian opposed that the due clause process had the guarantee that all the adults had the right to procreate and the right was being violated. The two also argued that the 14th amendment clause of EQUAL PROTECTION was being violated in that not all people who were similarly situated were treated the same. They argued that the sterilization process was made for the only feeble-minded in only a few states or the states which were not in any institution. Whitehead who was appointed as the attorney for Curie buck argued that the 14th amendment of the United States constitution gives guarantee to the liberties and rights of the known due process. Additionally, he stated there were no standards for the compulsory sterilization on which the court could use to make comparison with the sterilization act of Virginia. Aubrey Strode, representing the Virginia colony countered Whiteheads argument by stating that the act could afford the due process rights and also sterilization was an unusual and not a cruel punishment. Strode argued that the Virginia act was designed in order to protect the individual rights and the society welfare. Based on the arguments the Supreme Court made a ruling on the case. The court made a rule in favor of the State Colony by a majority of eight to one ruling by making the decision that Carrie Buck to be sterilized legally under the act of Virginia Sterilization. The Courts majority opinion was made by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. The Supreme Court ruled the principle that the validation by Jacobson vs. Massachusetts of compulsory vaccination was enough to allow womans oviduct to be cut. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr stated that instead of the society waiting to execute the degenerate offspring for a crime or letting them starve because of their imbecility, they can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing with their kind. Moreover, the Justice made it clear that the public welfare will get the lives of its best citizens if the lowest members of the society will be prevented from spreading their kind at the expense of every individual. Justice Pierce Butler did not agree with the decision but he made no opinion about the same. Due to the fact that Justice Butler made no opinion, credibility of the majority ruling was damaged.

Eugenics movement is a set of beliefs that focus on improving the genetic quality of human being population. Based on the knowledge in the field of Genetics, changing the human pool was reasonable. Eugenics researchers believed that by maintaining human mating carefully some conditions like psychiatric illness, mental retardation and physical infirmities could be eradicated. Eugenics had a significant role in the Buck versus Bell case in the Supreme Court. The ruling of the court was based on the Virginia act of 1924; According to the courts ruling Buck was to be sterilized so that her social welfare and the community welfare could be improved. The opinion of the court according to Justice Oliver, was that it was better for the whole world instead of waiting to execute the degenerate offspring for the crime its better to let them starve for their imbecility, the society could prevent the ones who were manifestly unfit from continuing their type. The three generations of imbeciles were enough.

After the Supreme Court findings in 1927 in Bucks v. Bell case, Carrie Buck was to be sterilized on the basis that her family was considered to be genetically unfit. The Court upheld the Virginia sterilization statute as it brought to light for similar laws to be applied in thirty states of the US. An estimate of sixty-five thousand American citizen got sterilized without their own will or their family's consent. In United States the current legal status of enforced sterilization is that in the year 2001, the general assembly of Virginia made an acknowledgement that the sterilization law was on the basis of faulty science. The assembly also expressed the regret of over commonwealth role on the eugenics movements in the nation and the damage made in the name eugenics. In the year 2002, the Carrie Buck was honored as a marker was erected in her hometown for the inhumanity done to her by being sterilized on the based on eugenics.

In conclusion, study of genetics especially heredity is not sufficient enough to justify that getting children outside the wedlock is a proof that those genes are inherited to the next generation. As to the decisions imposed on Carrie Buck, genetics should not be used to justify that one is feebleminded. Genetics should not be used as a basis of any type of any legal decision. To support this the Virginia general assembly in the year 2001, acknowledged that eugenics was based on a faulty science.

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Eugenics and the Supreme Court Case of Buck vs. Bell. (2021, Mar 15). Retrieved from

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