Eugenics Movement with Vasectomy in America
Was there a eugenics movement in America? If you haven’t heard, eugenics is the study or belief in the possibility of improving qualities of the human population. This is done by discouraging reproduction in persons with genetic defects (negative eugenics). Another way is encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have heritable desirable traits (positive eugenics). Does this sound familiar?
The origin of Eugenics in America started with Albert Ochsner, professor of surgery at the University of Illinois. In 1899 Ochsner published, “Surgical Treatment of Habitual Criminals”. This book details the advantages of using vasectomy on criminals to prevent future criminals, such as:
- It would dispense with hereditary criminals from the father’s side.
- Aside from being sterile the criminal is left unharmed.
- It would protect the community at large while not harming the criminal.
- The same treatment could reasonably be suggested for chronic inebriates, imbeciles, perverts and paupers.
Eugenics became accepted and procedures were carried out without any legal authority in the United Stated. At the time 29 states had bills permitting sterilization of insane and feeble minded individuals and 12 states allowed sterilization of criminals, Minnesota is one of them. Over 6000 men were sterilized in the United States from 1909-1924. By the 1960’s, the eugenic sterilizations slowed to a trickle and eventually stopped as many state statues were overturned due to legal challenges.