Forced Sterilization Does Not Work

Between 1907 and 1963 more than 64,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized for common good. Can "bad seeds" be weeded out by force sterilization?

We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence.

It is better for all the world if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.

US Supreme Court Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1927
Sperms rushing towards the egg. Forced sterilization.
Depiction Human Conception
Forced Sterilization in the US

Between the 1890s and 1910s was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the United States. The main objectives of the activists and reformists were to address problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and political corruption.

Activists and reformists joined efforts to reform local government, public education, finance, industry, churches, and many other areas. Progressives transformed, professionalized, and made the social sciences, history, economics, and political science more “scientific”. Therefore it was not surprising that many Americans wanted to improve the future generations of the United States with the knowledge acquired from genetics.

In the early twentieth more than thirty states of the USA supported the idea that if people with genetic disorders were to be forcibly sterilized systematically, genetic disorders would parish in future generations. Would that really work?

Depiction of Gene Mutation
Depiction of Gene Mutation

Forced Sterilization Is Not the Solution

Supporters of forced sterilization of people with genetical deases consider sterilization as weeding out bad genes from human gene pull, and an attempt to harness the power of reproduction to produce people with traits that enable them to thrive. 

It is true that science increased the number of individuals who are fit to survive, but that we let people with genetic disorders have children is not the main cause that keeps those “imperfect” genes in the human gene pool.

Many of us have mutated genes in our DNA that come from either one of our parents. However, when a gene coming from one parent is mutated our body subsidizes the “broken” gene with the healthy one coming from the other parent.

A genetic disease manifests itself when certain genes coming from both parents are damaged, or mutated. Since we have so many genes, it is not very likely that both the mother and the father had the same imperfect gene, hence by far most of us do not have genetic diseases.

However, when the mother and the father are close relatives, the possibility that the same genes from both sides are mutated. Hence, we discourage people from marrying their cousins.

Preventing people with genetic diseases, who make up a negligible size of a group in the entire population, from having children helps little to “cleanse” the gene pool because almost all children with the genetic disease are from healthy parents that carry mutated genes.

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Tamer Aydogdu
Articles: 35

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