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13 J. Contemp. Health L. & Pol'y 1 (1996-1997)
Medicine, Eugenics, and the Supreme Court: From Coercive Sterilization to Reproductive Freedom

handle is hein.journals/jchlp13 and id is 35 raw text is: ARTICLES
MEDICINE, EUGENICS, AND THE
SUPREME COURT:
FROM COERCIVE STERILIZATION TO
REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM*
Paul A. Lombardo**
I. INTRODUCTION
The idea that the human race can be gradually improved and social ills
simultaneously eliminated through a program of selective procreation
was widely accepted through the first third of the twentieth century. The
term applied to this seductive notion was eugenics, and it gave rise to a
movement that found adherents throughout American society. Every
president from Theodore Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover was a member of
a eugenics organization, publicly endorsed eugenic laws, or signed eu-
genic legislation without voicing opposition.'
The most powerful vehicle of the eugenic ideology was the law. If we
evaluate the eugenicists on their legislative accomplishments, and calcu-
late the number of people affected by eugenical laws, their success
must be considered extraordinary.
Between 1900 and 1970, proponents of eugenic theory drafted and en-
dorsed nearly one hundred statutes that were adopted by state legisla-
tures.2 Most of this legislation focused on limiting the reproductive rights
* An earlier version of this paper was presented in the History of the Health
Sciences Lecture Series, University of Virginia, November 17, 1994.
** Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of the General Faculty of the School of Law and
Director, Center for Mental Health Law, Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy,
University of Virginia.
1. See, e.g., ALLAN CHASE, THE LEGACY OF MALTHIUS: THE SOCIAL COSTS OF THE
NEW SCIETwIC RACISM 15, 19-20, 126 (1977); MARK H. HALLER, EUGENICS:
HEREDITARIAN ATrITUDES IN AMERICAN THOUGHT 155-56 (1963); JAMES W. TRENT, JR.,
INVENTING THE FEEBLE MIND: A HISTORY OF MENTAL RETARDATION IN THE UNITED
STATES 173, 292 n.3 (1994).
2. See HALLER, supra note 1, at 142 (stating that 30 state eugenic sterilization laws

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