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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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Probability of pregnancy after sterilization: a comparison of hysteroscopic versus laparoscopic sterilization. Contraception.
The FDA has since ordered the device manufacturer to undertake an open-label, nonrandomized study comparing outcomes between hysteroscopic and laparoscopic sterilization, which is expected to deliver results in 2023.
A matter of interest to the author of this present study is that, some cases of failure of laparoscopic sterilization done outside were referred for MTP and RPT laparoscopic tubectomy.
Women who had an medical termination of pregnancy before undergoing laparoscopic sterilization were found to have decreased over the years from 46.2% in 1986 to 14.2% in 2006 as shown in Figure 3.
[7] 85.7% of patients underwent tubal ligation by minilaparotomy while one out of seven underwent laparoscopic sterilization by falope ring application.
He divided the cases into three groups (1) interval laparoscopic sterilization unrelated to pregnancy (n=20,325); (2) postpartum laparoscopic sterilization (n=2233); (3) postpartum sterilization by minilaparotomy (n=5095).
Salpingectomy also should be discussed when counseling women about laparoscopic sterilization methods since it can be considered a method that provides effective contraception, according to the committee opinion.
Bowel injury is more apt to occur during more complicated laparoscopic procedures (compared with laparoscopic sterilization procedures, the risk during hysterectomy was greater than 10-fold).
One study found ORC efficacious in controlling tubal hemorrhage during laparoscopic sterilization (Int.
Interval laparoscopic sterilization done in July 2010.

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