AuthorErvin, Mike
PositionHistory of eugenics law

There's a television commercial that makes me cringe more than any other. It features former baseball star Frank "the Big Hurt" Thomas trying to convince aging men to buy a product he claims he consumes regularly and enthusiastically. The miracle potion, he swears, has helped him recapture lost youth by filling him with energy and vitality. And the ladies like it, too, says the Big Hurt.

The part that really does me in is when the name of the product is revealed: Nugenix. Who the hell thought of that name? And didn't it occur to them--or anyone else in their orbit--that this name sounds shockingly like eugenics? Maybe it is indicative of how little many people know about the horrifying eugenics movement, the product of pseudo-scientists with a very Nazi-esque view of life who believed the human race could be perfected through selective breeding. This meant preventing those considered to be undesirable and defective from polluting the gene pool by stopping them from reproducing. Of course, people with disabilities were high on the list of those considered to be undesirable and defective.

Eugenics was essentially genocide, an attempt to get rid of certain kinds of people. But it was vigorously expounded by many influential thought leaders of the time. Starting in 1935, the Los Angeles Times ran a weekly column titled "Social Eugenics," written by veteran reporter Fred Hogue, who used it to sing the praises of the eugenics movement and the big strides it was making across the world. The column ran until 1941, the year of Hogue's death. While it was being published, Hitler had been rapidly rising to power in Germany, trumpeting many of the same ideas.

For decades in the early twentieth century, the eugenics mentality swept the nation like a dance craze. Thirty-two states passed eugenic sterilization laws during that period, and more than 60,000 people were sterilized as a result. One of them was Carrie Buck, who resided in a state institution called the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. She was committed there by her foster parents in 1924, when she was just seventeen years old, after she had become pregnant.

That same year, Virginia passed a law legalizing involuntary eugenic sterilization. It was challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Buck was used by those defending the law as an example of why people like her needed to be kept from reproducing, for the good of society.

In 1927, in an 8-1 decision, the Court...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT