By |Published On: August 24th, 2020|Categories: Eugenics|
***This short article will be merged with a longer article in the future.***

On March 20, 1924, the “Eugenical Sterilization Act,” which permitted the involuntary sterilization of inmates who were confined to State institutions, was signed into law in the state of Virginia.[1] Alongside this piece of legislation, the “Racial Integrity Act,” which made it unlawful for whites to marry non-whites, was signed into law on the same day.[2] Over 7,200—but upwards of 8,300—sterilizations took place in Virginia between 1924 up until 1979, while approximately 62% of those sterilized in Virginia were women.[3] Many were deemed mentally ill, while others were deemed mentally deficient, yet the mind doesn’t need to wander far to realize what kind of precedent this set. This period was very much at the heart of the eugenics movement in the 20th century.
By 1924, similar legislation had been enacted in 15 states, yet by 1956 it had been enacted in a total of 24 states. Buck v. Bell, which was decided on May 2, 1927, ruled that compulsory sterilization of the unfit was warranted and did not violate the Eighth nor the Fourteenth Amendment. Carrie Buck, who was 21 years old at the time, was the first person to be forcibly sterilized under the new law on October 19, 1927 by Dr. John H. Bell. By January 1, 1957, approximately 59,186 individuals had been forcibly sterilized.[4]

You might have guessed by now that the Nazis paid close attention to what was occurring in the US, and on July 14, 1933, the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring was passed by the Reichstag, while the implementation was based closely on Harry H. Laughlin’s “Model Law.”[5] Laughlin was the mastermind behind Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922) which catalyzed the Eugenics movement.[6] The Nazis sterilized upwards of 80,000 individuals within the first year of the law being passed, while upwards of 400,000 individuals were sterilized under the regime between 1934 until 1945.[7] Laughlin, in 1936, was awarded an honorary degree at the University of Heidelberg for his work related to the “science of racial cleansing.”[8]


[1] Nathalie Antonios, “Sterilization Act of 1924,” Embryo Project Encyclopedia, April 2011.; Males underwent vasectomies, while females underwent salpingectomies.

[2] G.M. Dorr, “Racial Integrity Laws of the 1920s,” Encyclopedia Virginia, May 2014.

[3] Lutz Kaelber, “Eugenics: Compulsory Sterilization in 50 American States,” University of Vermont, 2012.

[4] Bernhard Schreiber, The Men Behind Hitler: A German Warning to the World (Wisconsin: Suzeteo Enterprises, 2018), Appendix 1.

[5] Harry Bruinius, Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity. New York: Vintage Books, 2007).

[6] Harry H. Laughlin, “Eugenical Sterilization in the United States,” Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, December, 1922.

[7] See Dave Mcnair, “Erasing history: Wrecking ball aiming for DeJarnette?,” The Hook, Issue 0528, July 2006.; Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, a leading advocate of eugenics from Virginia, wrote this in 1938:

Germany in six years has sterilized about 80,000 of her unfit while the United States — with approximately twice the population — has only sterilized about 27,869 in the past 20 years. … The fact that there are 12,000,000 defectives in the U.S. should arouse our best endeavors to push this procedure to the maximum … The Germans are beating us at our own game.

[8] John Gerdtz, “‘For contributions to the science of racial cleansing’: Harry H. Laughlin and the American Eugenics Movement,” Proceedings of the Nineteenth University Faculty for Life Conference at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis MN (2009); Also see Joseph W. Koterski, S.J. (Washington, D.C.: University Faculty for Life, 2013), 295-304.

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