Friday, September 30, 2005

Eugenics and Asexualization

Eugenical Sterilization: A Reorientation of the Problem

Book by American Neurological Association; Macmillan Co., 1936

California. Laws were passed on June 25, 1909 and on July 27, 1917. The law provides for compulsory asexualization upon discharge of any inmate of a state hospital for the insane or a state home for the feebleminded if afflicted with mental disease which may have been inherited and which is likely to be transmitted to the descendants; the feebleminded of various grades; those suffering from perversions and marked departures from normal mentality, or from diseases of a syphilitic nature at the discretion of the state commission in lunacy. The law further provides for asexualization of recidivist criminals, if they have been found guilty three times of any crime or crimes, twice for rape or assault with intent to commit rape or seduction, upon the discretion of the resident physician of any state prison, the general superintendent of state hospitals, and the secretary of the state board of health, if the procedure is considered beneficial and conducive to the benefit of the physical, mental, and moral condition of the convict, or any idiot, with the legal consent of his guardian.

While asexualization is permitted, only sterilization is performed. Though the law is compulsory, practically, sterilization in Californian institutions is usually performed with the consent of the patient, husband, wife or next of kin. Although the state has the power to protect itself by compulsion when necessary, the consent of the family is given so readily, in most instances, that it need not be used. It will also be noticed that there is class discrimination in the law, since the patients in private hospitals are exempt from it, as are the patients cared for at home. In other words, the social and financial status also plays a role, the theory being that when an individual becomes an object of public support, he comes under the operation of public measures.

Operations numbering 9,931 have been performed up to January, 1935, 5,147 males and 4,784 females in approximately 26 years, which makes roughly an average of somewhat over 350 cases a year. Although this is the state in which the law is most thoroughly enforced and has become the paradigm of the country, it will be obvious that even here its application is very limited when compared to the extent of the problem.

The Human Betterment Foundation, which is in charge of the propaganda in relationship to sterilization in California and for that matter in this country, is prolific in publications. Thus, one of these publications states that sterilization enables handicapped persons to marry who, without sterilization, would not be able to marry, and that it has been marked by a decrease in sex offenses. One wonders how this has come about, since sterilization does not interfere with the sexual impulse or satisfaction, and it seems a far stretch to believe that sterilization improves sexual morals. In fact, the main objection on the part of many has been that without the fear of pregnancy, sexual offenses would be increased, and it is quite fair to say that the fear of pregnancy is a deterring influence on the conduct of many normal people. It is not probable that feebleminded people commit sex offenses for propagation purposes. It may fairly be stated that much of the propaganda has a journalistic flavor. For example, in Popenoe's and Gosney's book "Sterilization for Human Betterment", the headlines denote that criminality has decreased, but the small print states that, of course, this is not due to sterilization.

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