Sterilization

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Related to Sterilizations: sterilise, surgical sterilization

Sterilization

A medical procedure where the reproductive organs are removed or rendered ineffective.

Legally mandated sterilization of criminals, or other members of society deemed "socially undesirable," has for some time been considered a stain on the history of U.S. law. The practice, also known as eugenics, originated early in the twentieth century. In 1914, a Model Eugenical Sterilization Law was published by Harry Laughlin at the Eugenics Records Office. Laughlin proposed the sterilization of "socially inadequate" persons, which translated as anyone "maintained wholly or in part by public expense." This would include the "feebleminded, insane, blind, deaf, orphans, and the homeless." At the time the model law was published, 12 states had enacted sterilization laws. Such laws were seen to benefit society since they presumably reduced the burden on taxpayers of maintaining state-run facilities. Eventually, these laws were challenged in court.

In Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927), oliver wendell holmes jr. wrote the infamous opinion that upheld the constitutionality of a Virginia sterilization law, fueling subsequent legislative efforts to enact additional sterilization laws. By 1930, 30 states and Puerto Rico had passed laws mandating sterilization for many criminal or moral offenses. Nearly all of the states with such laws imposed mandatory sterilization of mentally defective citizens. Nineteen states required sterilization for parents of children likely to experience various disorders. Six states encouraged sterilization for individuals whose children might be "socially inadequate."

Finally, the Supreme Court struck down an Oklahoma law mandating involuntary sterilization for repeat criminals in Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 62 S. Ct. 1110, 86 L. Ed. 1655 (1942). Justice william o. douglas's opinion broadly defined the right to privacy to include the right to procreate, and concluded that the government's power to sterilize interfered with an individual's basic liberties.

By mid-century, legal attitudes had changed, and many state sterilization laws were held to be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment prohibiting Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Further readings

Carlson, Elof Axel. 2001. The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea. Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Kevles, Daniel J. 1985. In the Name of Eugenics. New York: Knopf.

Smith, J. David, and K. Ray Nelson. 1999. The Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Far Hills, N.J.: New Horizon Press.

References in periodicals archive ?
37) In a British study of childfree women who tried to obtain sterilizations, some women reported that medical professionals treated them like children and that practitioners dismissed or trivialized their reasons for requesting sterilization.
India could also consider discouraging postpartum sterilizations (as is the case in Brazil and many other countries), as the process of delivery and the hospital environment might influence women to undergo sterilization.
Shimla, Feb 6(ANI): The Himachal Pradesh government has launched a monkey sterilization drive in Shimla to curb the increasing population of the primate in the city.
This popularity belies the complicated history of sterilization among women of color, however, and especially among Latinas.
The answer is simple: Despite the development and introduction of many new contraceptive methods over the last 15 years, sterilization is the most widely used method in the world, in developing and developed countries alike.
Contraceptive sterilization, either by fallopian tube ligation or vasectomy, is an intrinsic evil, as is an abortion.
QS has now been used in some cases for over 20 years and in 25 countries, producing a shelf of sound scientific studies demonstrating a safety record superior to surgical sterilization.
There's definitely a connection between the sterilization programs and the decline in the number of animals brought into our shelters,'' said city Department of Animal Regulation director Dan Knapp.
For many years, heat in the form of steam has been used as a low cost and effective means of achieving sterilization but not all products are amenable to steam sterilization.
In a letter published in a Catholic paper, Archbishop Roman Villalobos of San Jose pointed out that sterilization attacks the dignity of the poor, and observed that "The problems of the poor in the world are only going to improve when the 30 per cent of the world's population that owns 70 per cent of the earth's wealth--the sadly famous 'prosperity belt'-- gives up such flagrant and odious injustice and shares its surplus with those who are in need of so much.
Gordon said the humane organizations should help pet owners pay for sterilization if they are not satisfied with the city's programs.
sterilization which aims, either as a means, or an end, at rendering procreation impossible, is a grave violation of the moral law and therefore illicit.