Friday, September 30, 2005

Is Asexualization Ever Justifiable?

Is Asexualization Ever Justifiable In The Case Of Imbecile Children



In no direction possibly has greater advance been made during the past century on medico-sociologic lines than in our knowledge of the defective classses of the population; this knowledge, however, has served only to afford a more adequate comprehension of the extreme complexity of the problem of how we can best deal with these unfortunates. Careful study of the social evolution of the race has, on the one hand, taught us the hopeless condition of the habitual criminal, the mentally defective and pauper classes. In large measure discouragement has thus far been the result of our endeavor to re­form the one or train to useful citizenship the other. The higher ethical considerations cause us to stand aghast at the suggestion that they be left, as indeed they were before the advent of the Christian era, to the unobstructed operation of the law of selection. This law, harsh, and utterly void of sym­pathy as at first sight it seems, was nevertheless the natural method of progress for the race; but under modern social conditions with its altruistic ideals, based upon the recognition of a universal brotherhood, the weak and unfortunate are protected against the operation of the law which ordained their destruction. In the eye of the law of selection they were reprobate. We have sought for their physical redemption but have been taught the futility of our well-meant endeavors. We have fed and clothed the pauper, and sought to imbue him with the spirit of thrift and self-help, but like “the sow that was washed he has returned to wallow in the mire.” Instead of hanging the thief, as was done in former times, he has been placed in a reformatory, taught useful trades and his mind stored with moral precepts; “but can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” The criminal too often remains the criminal still. He, too, is reprobate. We have reared asylums and training schools for the feebleminded, and have sought to protect and to train them into useful lives only to discover that they too are the victims of a physical and moral reprobation.

Eugenics in 1909 California (click image to enlarge)

The first California sterilization (asexualization) law in 1909. The note on the right of the image is "Asexualization of inmates of state institutions."

The note in the second image is "State prisoners." (Click to enlarge.)

How did this come about? We know many eugenicists wanted to pass such laws, but how did they get the public to agree? I will try to trace the evolution and see how it originated and see where it goes. Who introduced the bill? Who backed him? Who financed it? Was there a public outcry due to a particularly shocking case?


Media Matters exposes Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"

Addressing a caller's suggestion that the "lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years" would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency, radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett dismissed such "far-reaching, extensive extrapolations" by declaring that if "you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

An Act for the prevention of idiocy

I return herewith, without my approval Senate Bill No. 35, entitled "An Act for the prevention of idiocy."

This bill has what may be called with propriety an attractive title. If idiocy could be prevented by an act of assembly, we may be quite sure that such an act would have long been passed and approved in this state, and that such laws would have been enacted in all civilized countries. The subject of the act is not the prevention of idiocy, but it is to provide that in every institution in the state, entrusted with the care of idiots and imbecile children, a neurologist, a surgeon, and physician shall be authorized to perform an operation upon the inmates "for the prevention of procreation.." What is the nature of the operation is not described but it is such an operation as they shall decide to be "safest and most effective." It is plain that the safest and most effective preventing procreation would be to cut the heads off the inmates, and such authority is given by the bill to this staff of scientific experts. It is not probable that they would resort to this means for the prevention of procreation, but it is probable that they would endeavor to destroy some part of the human organism. Scientists, like all other men whose experiences have been limited to one pursuit, and whose minds have been developed in a particular direction, sometimes need to be restrained. Men of high scientific attainments are prone, in their love for technique, to lose sight of broad principles outside of their domain of thought.

A surgeon may possible be so eager to advance in skill as to be forgetful of the danger to his patient. Anatomists may be willing to gather information by the infliction of pain and suffering upon helpless creatures, although a higher standard of conduct would teach them that it is far better for humanity to bear its own ills than to escape them by knowledge only secured through cruelty to other creatures. This bill, whatever good might possibly result from it if its provisions should become a law, violates the principles of ethics. These feeble-minded and imbecile children have been entrusted to the institutions by their parents or guardians for the purpose of training and instruction. It is proposed to experiment upon them, not for their instruction, but in order to help society in the future. It is to be done without their consent, which they cannot give, and without the consent of their parents or guardians, who are responsible for their welfare. It would be in contravention of the laws which have been enacted for the establishment of these institutions. These laws have in contemplation the training and the instruction of the children. This bill assumes that they cannot be so instructed and trained. Moreover, the course it is proposed to pursue would have a tendency to prevent such training and instruction. Everyone knows, whether he be a scientist or an ordinary observer, that to destroy virility is to lessen the capacity, the energy and the spirit which lead to effort. The bill is, furthermore, illogical in its thought. Idiocy will not be prevented by the prevention of procreation among these inmates. This mental condition is due to causes many of which are entirely beyond our knowledge. It existed long before there were ever such inmates of such institutions. If this plan is to be adopted, to make it effective it should be carried into operation in the world at large, and not in institutions where the inmates are watched by nurses, kept separate, and have all the care which is likely to rendered procreation there very rare, if not altogether impossible. In one of these institutions, I am reliably informed, there have only been three births in ten years. A great objection is that the bill would encourage experimentation upon living animals, and would be the beginning of experimentation upon living human beings, leading logically to results which can be readily forecasted. The chief physician, in charge at Elwyn, has candidly told us, in an article recently published upon "Heredity," that "Studies in heredity tend to emphasize the wisdom of those ancient peoples who taught that the healthful development of the individual and the elimination of the weakling was the truest patriotism -- springing from an abiding sense of the fulfillment of a duty to the state."

To permit such an operation would be to inflict cruelty upon a helpless class in the community which the state has undertaken to protect. However skillfully performed, it would at times lead to peritonitis, blood poisoning, lockjaw and death.
For these reasons the bill is not approved.

Governor of Pennsylvania

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.