May 7

1927: U.S. Supreme Court upheld sterilization statute

U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Virginia forced sterilization statute of people considered “genetically unfit.” Harvard-educated eugenicist, Oliver Wendell Holmes’ infamous declaration, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough. . .” resulted in the forced sterilization not only of Carrie Buck of Charlottesville, Virginia, who was falsely “diagnosed” as mentally deficient and declared as potentially capable of having a “less than normal child.” The decision opened the floodgates: 33 states enacted compulsory sterilization laws; and an estimated 65,000 Americans sterilized through the 1970s. Virginia was the last state to abandon forced sterilization with the settlement of Poe v. Lynchburg Training School and Hospital in 1981. By then, an estimated 10,000 women had been forcibly sterilized in Virginia.

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