Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sterilization Bill leads to Eugenics Victims' Compensation

In 1924, the state of Virginia passed a law requiring the sterilization of "defective person[s]" in the hopes of creating a "more perfect society".  Those sterilized were mostly poor and uneducated; and the policy served as a model for other states and even Nazi Germany.   The law was called the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act and it declared that “heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, idiocy, imbecility, epilepsy, and crime”.  These people were usually in state mental disability institutions. This law had the support of both doctors and scientists, and it was believed that the sterilization would be beneficial to both the individual and society because they would not be able to have offspring that would be a burden.  However, in 2004, Virginia passed a "resolution of regret" and apologized to all those sterilized.  Now, Virginia and other states who participated in this sterilization are working on giving financial compensation to those sterilized.  The articles gives the case of a man named Reynolds as an example of the emotional toll of sterilization under this law. He expresses that not being able to have children created rocky relationships with his past wives, depression upon seeing a pregnant woman, and feels that it "took my life away from me".

At one point in this article, the author stressed that the law had the support of both doctors and scientists, but it did not mention what type of scientists.  Were psychologists included in the decision making and passing of the law?  It seems like the reason victims are being compensated is because of the emotional and mental stress of not being able to have children, which I think a psychologist could have easily predicted.  Also, if the mental distress in victims is the result of the inability to have children, how does money fix this? Is money supposed to buy their happiness? Wouldn't free counseling, aid in adoption, and other services such as these be more helpful?

In addition to this, the articles quotes the law having been passed to stop the spreading of things such as insanity, idiocy, imbecility, epilepsy, and crime.  With the money and time spent to sterilize these poor people, it could have been used for more education and healthcare for these people and their children to slow down the spreading of these qualities.

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