The concept of Sterilization processes and procedures in the US are centered on the notion of the Eugenics, which is a word adopted from America’s lexicon after World War II (Mill 2006; Lombardo2008). Ideally, Eugenics refers to the science of improving the human race through controlled breeding. Adoption of the practices of Eugenics and sterilization in the US found its way in around 20th century when America was at moment driven by an ideology of progress and science, while at the same time the American society was obsessed with reproduction.
Therefore, Eugenic sterilization in this sense was seen by its proponents as a panacea against the skyrocketing trend of degeneracy (Selden1999). Thus, through adopting sterilization for the US, the Eugenicists believed and figured it out that sterilization in the form of surgical solution would definitely bring about a new American utopia based on race, science and progress as opposed to Christianity. Unfortunately in the event of sterilizing Americans, a total of 70,000 Americans (Lombardo 2002) were sterilized against their will.
As Mill (2006) puts it, today many men and women have a choice about their own birth control options. But he refers to past and still continuing days in some aspects of the earth where some men and women have not been given “that choice”. This owes to the fact that Eugenic Sterilization atrocities have been a dominant practice not only in the United States of America, but also in many parts of the world, especially Canada and Europe (Lombardo 2008). In this regard, sterilization in this context refers to the practice of trying to make the human species better in an attempt to build a better, faster, and smarter human being.
At the time of adoption of the sterilization programs, (Allen 1996) the aim was to improve the gene pool. The act was forceful without consent and focused on the social misfits such as criminals, disabled persons with physical disabilities like the blind in the American society. Holding onto these views, this paper shall examine the issue of sterilization in the US in detail with an attempt to establishing the target group, the period and the reason for the trend (Selden1999). Sterilization in America
As mentioned in the previous section, practices of forced sterilization dates back to 9th March 1907. This day marked a milestone to this hotly debated issue of birth control choices for the (Lombardo 2002). By enactment, this law provided for the law to sterilize the confirmed imbeciles, rapists, criminals, and idiots. As a result, fourteen (14) other states adopted the legislation from Indiana by 1917 that increased to 23 states in 1929. During this expansion period, there was witnessed forceful sterilization.
For instance, many ‘defectives’ were more often forced to undergo sterilization for individual with cases such as a variety of criminal, epileptics, people with low IQ scores and the mentally ill (Witkowski 2003). However, by 1963 most states had taken sterilization laws out of use, while North Carolina delayed till 1974. Historically, at the turn of the 20th century when American economy was doing well as a result of successful industrialization processes, there was an emergency of the influx of immigrants and overpopulation of middle and lower working class migrating from eastern and southern Europe (Lombardo 2008).
This social composition changes lead to the emergence of elevated elite class or high class strata made of doctors, economists and scientists at that era of invention. Thus, this elite carder of high class and influential persons to the government sought a larger role for the American federal government to address the growing inner-city issues of crime, hunger and poverty awakened by Industrialization (Mill 2006). These high class carder individuals who coded themselves as “social visionaries” invested their hope for solution in science to solve these social problems.
In this respect, the “social visionaries” asserted that the social challenges such as prostitution, poverty, crime, birth defects, alcoholism, and ignorance are a result of defective genes. Therefore, scientific approach towards solving the challenge according to them “social visionaries” was best, hence eugenics proposed. As a consequence of that proposal by elite carder to the government, biological and scientists researchers with agricultural backgrounds flocked to the new field of eugenics. The offices to record formally about the program was opened up to collect and catalog human pedigrees.
It is in these events that American Breeders Association (ABA) and Eugenics Record Office (ERO) were established (Mill 2006). These centers and many others were stationed to: fill catalogs with detailed information on family physical, lineages and personality traits, such as stubbornness or moodiness; behavioral and mental traits, such as alcoholism, depression, and epilepsy; and lastly centers were to serve a consultation places to consult young couples on suitable marriage partners and matters of family planning.
Following the foot steps of Sir Francis Galton of Great Britain (Witkowski 2003) who happens to be Charles Darwin’s cousin who for the first time in 1883 used the term eugenics to “well-born” in his application to his powerful theories on social and genetics engineering; American biologists Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport developed a radical brand of eugenics to help the United States of America government to weed out degenerate members of the proletariat (Allen 1996).
These two American biologists philosophy are influenced by Galton who believed that the moral philosophy embedded in eugenics has potential to improve the human species through encouraging society’s best and brightest to reproduce more children. The brutality of this social initiative is that it justified and allowed for genetic manipulation; imprisonment and race segregation in claim of save US from the high cost of treating defective individuals, who were responsible for the America’s social ills (Witkowski 2003).
Additionally, they suggested that the issues of influx of immigrants can be easily controlled by strict immigration quotas and selective genetic screening (Lombardo 2008). However, the genuineness of the focus group for the sterilization initiative is wanting. For instance, in 1924 Virginia passed a law to legalize sterilization of mentally disabled individuals for eugenic reason. In the follow up of events, three years later in 1927 Carrie Bell in was ordered to be sterilized by (Buck v.
Bell) Justice (Lombardo 2002) Holmes Oliver, Jr. On asserting his decision, Justice Holmes stated that the decision was based on the premise that the sanctity of the gene pool for national good outweighed one person’s physical rights. The main reason for the decision to sterilize Carrie Bell was due to her and her mother’s promiscuous ways, mentally slowness and her history of prostitution. The outstanding question remains the justification of denying a person the choice for her own birth options which is not fair (Witkowski 2003).
Sterilization to some extend can be seen to focus on a biased gender justice or Sexism. This is in the sense from Carrie Bell’s case, the forced sterilization were performed on women for unjust reasons (Witkowski 2003). These oppression to women meant that women should be chaste, while men were encouraged to be sexually promiscuous. Sadly, some women were sterilized without their consent and even worse at a tender age like below 14 without knowing, even having a child out of wedlock would have lead to sterilization (Mill 2006)
Racism was another great factor for selecting individuals for sterilization. Lombardo (2002) note that racism was a strong motivating factor for compulsory sterilization in the US. For instance in North Carolina, black American women used to be sterilized during their delivery of their first born. While on the other hand, in Alberta a large proportion of Metis women who were aboriginal people were being sterilized because government knew they had heritage of First Nations mixed with European settlers (Lombardo 2008), thus they represented miscegenation.
Moreover, social economic aspects were key drive for forced sterilization. Witkowski, (2003), notes that more often black poor women were sterilized against their wills. The view for sterilizing poor black persons was a blessing since it permitted a given a family to take care of the children they already had. Conclusion In conclusion, the paper has discussed the concept of sterilization on America and the target population with necessary philosophies that tried to back the justification for the forced sterilization on the minority.
However, the entire issue is made easier by todays politically-correct, which ensures that the next generation of American utopians will never know the pseudo-science which spawned Adolph Hitler’s horrific acts of ethnic cleansing was developed in American laboratories, and upheld by the highest court in the land that should be at fore front in fostering justice to all, protecting life and rights for the citizens. However, it is clear that each individual has a right, and that right allows an individual not to be sterilized without his or her consent. By dong so the birth control choice remains in our hand and ca not be deprived off: The power of choice.