Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen, (2016)
This is probably the most famous case of any relating to the ill-considered eugenics movement that contributed to the discredited Social Darwinism philosophy and serious racism (blacks being considered subhuman for no actual basis other than having been enslaved because of the color of their skin – which I think if it was written as science fiction no one with a brain would find this notion credible and would not be able to suspend their disbelief for such a novel). And more obviously, led to the genocide of the Jews in the Holocaust, which led to a withdrawal of the concept from acceptable “science” but I fear lingers on to this day. We see genocide over religion as well as people who are in tribes that are simply taller people (Rawanda – read Elmore Leonard’s novel Pagan Babies, that includes some on it, horrifying).
So the gist of the issue was that 8 Supreme Court justices decided Carrie Buck was of low intelligence (without any basis; when she was allowed in school she was better than average). As the child of a single mom because the husband had abandoned the family, she was vulnerable. After her mother was confined to a facility for purported “immorality” [pretty sure only women were confined for that] and prostitution [not sure she had another way of making a living], and syphilis [big surprise].
Carrie was sent to live with foster parents, who removed her from school to be treated as a servant. Then the family’s nephew raped Carrie and she become pregnant herself, giving birth to a daughter out of wedlock (it is a really horrible story; the foster parents adopted and got custody of Carrie’s child while she was sent to the home, and were, as I recall abusive of her child. The daughter died at age eight.
Carrie was deemed “immoral” for having been raped. We have not made much progress on that front. She was a test case by the Nazi sympathizer involved in a move to sterilize for race purity and mentally challenged as well as, shockingly, epileptics.
The short version is that they used her as a test case to validate the right of the State to sterilize people. And the dreadful horrible evil of 8 of 9 old white men decided that the State had a right to sterilize people without their permission and often without their knowledge.
Like other horrible Supreme Court decisions, the completely horrific consequences were not seen as evil at the time, people did not protest. They agreed that this should be done.
Today, we still have people who think the State should be able to sterilize welfare recipients whom they insist have babies just to score another $130 a month assistance. It is a peculiar aspect of misogyny that men are so eager and willing to advocate for the sterilization of poor women but rapists are not routinely sterilized. I actually think convicted rapists should be sterilized because they are usually serial rapists and women end up pregnant and then they are coerced into carrying to term either by lack of access or funds (poor women get hit again) and then end up on assistance and judged immoral and takers. Plus the rapists can sue for visitation which is just plain nuts and a source of terror for any woman in a state that allows that to happen.
Why is it that WOMEN deserve to be sterilized for “immorality” but not rapists? I believe the politician who argued for sterilization to be a condition of assistance had to resign, at least I hope so.
Then we turn to the desire of the wing nuts who want to stop women from having access to contraception! Well, women and girls are going to have sex so that is just stupid on the face of it. Those boys making their studly conquests have to do it with someone but the girls are sluts who are shamed about using contraception, left uneducated about the reality of sex and STDs, and of course, denied the constitutional right to abortion.
So the State claims to have a vested interest in women having children when they want to deny and restrict abortion, yet they easily could return to the concept that the State also has a vested interest is SOME women not having children or more than one or two children.
I do not recall seeing much from the forced birther set regarding opposition to sterilization, but I suppose it must be there somewhere. It is also ironic to me that it is almost impossible for a woman to get her tubes tied today if she is under 35 and/or has no children. They all say no, you’ll change your mind, or you’ll regret it, and explain that it is the position of the AMA or some such to not do tube tying on request. Also interesting considering the big issue several decades ago was that doctors were doing hysterectomies at the drop of a hat.
It is fundamentally bizarre how race, abilities, gender, power, politics and religion all want to mandate what women are allowed to do with their bodies. People believe that women need a waiting period to really decide about an abortion, but they don’t. Every woman, I think, worries about getting pregnant but once they decide to choose abortion, they don’t need delays, restrictions, or any of the undue burdens the zealots are trying to and have achieved to prevent them from having a choice.
Criminalizing abortion doesn’t stop abortion. It kills women. Giving the State the right to force birth or sterilization or deny contraception or anything else related to women’s reproductive rights is WRONG.
We need to have separation of church and state and state and bodily autonomy. In fact, I am pretty sure it is in the constitution in a manner a little less lame that the right to privacy. I had a great idea about it reading some books on Supreme Court cases, but of course, I didn’t write it down and now have to figure it out all out again.
So Carrie Buck’s story should be mandatory reading by everyone. It shows the abuse of governmental authority, parental authority, and male privilege. And given the elimination of funding for autism by one state recently, threats to cut Social Security disability by Congress by 20% when it is a pittance now, not enough to live on, and the states that are forcing women to bring to term babies with severe defects, even if they will die — some have even specified how long the child may live to determine whether or not an abortion is acceptable. Then there was the Texan case where the Republican politicians wanted to force a DEAD woman to be kept on life support for 3 months rather than let her have an abortion. Not understanding the difference between actual death and living apparently. As many others noted, dead people usually have more rights to bodily autonomy than a pregnant woman alive or dead.
We have a serious core problem in this country with a Supreme Court that continues to make very bad, actually EVIL decisions. When the only alternative is to counter the bad decisions with a law that requires action by an unreasonable and viciously evil majority of conservatives in Congress, we have no hope of living in a just society.
Carrie Buck, Dredd Scott, Lochner, Heller, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, and more are all examples of pervasive majorities by people, particularly men, who think they know what women and others must do according to their beliefs instead of the beliefs of the individuals. They wield too much power, the courts and the state legislatures in particular, over women in particular.
I just read a post about microagressions that people experience in the workplace, and the still bold harrassment in the workplace. The failure of corporations to pay equal wages to all for the same job is a systemic problem that needs progressive governmental regulation. Even more significantly we need to have comparable worth pay! But is there any hope of social justice when the highest and theoretically best judges in the country make such bad decisions? And when countless other legislatures also persist in making laws designed to hurt people rather than help them, government cannot be trusted to act for the good of the people. What then can we do? We must change the people in government. Maybe it isn’t too late. Maybe with the crowds of Bernie supporters and now so many running for office, maybe the people with hearts will be elected and the in it for the power and money will lose to the people with ideals. Let’s hope there won’t be any more Carrie Buck cases, and that Roe v. Wade is never overturned. If it is, we will be doomed as a democracy.
One thought on “Imbeciles by Adam Cohen”