Carrie Buck was three months shy of her twenty-second birthday when she was forcibly sterilized on October 19, 1927. Buck’s fate was based on the 1924 Virginia eugenic sterilization law, which marked individuals for sterilization based on vague and misleading concepts such as immorality, defectiveness, weak-mindedness, and promiscuity.1 Eugenicists, social hygienists, and lawmakers passed state… Read more →
Type “pregnancy” into any internet search engine today, and you’ll literally get a billion results. This plethora of information at our fingertips feels quite modern, and yet it has a long history: American women have long turned to the printed word for advice about their reproductive bodies. In the nineteenth century, there were many competing… Read more →
On May 15, 2019 Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation that will make the state’s abortion laws the most restrictive in the United States. Furthermore, it will establish extremely stringent penalties for violating these laws. The Human Life Protection Act, as it is formally named, would ban abortion in nearly every instance, including rape and… Read more →
Clarence Thomas recently issued a twenty-page opinion on the Supreme Court decision Box v. Planned Parenthood that went viral because he drew on Margaret Sanger, founder of the first birth control clinic in the U.S., and her connection to eugenics in order to argue that abortion is and historically has been a tool to control… Read more →
Eugenics as an explicit social program went mostly out of favor in the United States after the Second World War, although many of its underlying beliefs, methods, and goals persisted. The science and language of genetics remained. The techniques used to modify plants and animals continued. Horticulture continued to develop (“Horticulture!?” you ask. Why yes,… Read more →
On a Monday in November 1905, a “little deaf and dumb … 10-year old Eurasian girl” called Mooktie Wood arrived in the US on the steamship Canopic. An orphan with no known relatives, Mooktie had been “picked up” by an American Pentecostal missionary, Lillian Sprague, in the wake of one of the many devastating famines… Read more →
Every so often, some viral article or other will declare that science “proves” or “confirms” that intelligence is inherited from mothers. (I know, because my own mother will promptly share it on Facebook.) Swiftly, of course, revisionary articles will appear correcting or debunking this claim, chastising armchair geneticists for their overly-simplistic understandings of the X-chromosome…. Read more →
Eugenics is still a dirty word. It makes us think about science gone horribly wrong. It reminds us of the ghosts of Nazis past. The specter of eugenics is invoked when discussing new genetic technologies, often serving as a warning that engineering humanity can go too far. It wasn’t always like this. For much of… Read more →
by Lara Freidenfelds
Recently, a Canadian fertility clinic made the news because it refused to allow a white client to be impregnated with sperm from a donor of color. The clinic director told the media, “I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants.”
When I first read this, I felt offended. Personally. My husband and I are different races, and our kids are bi-racial. I guess I had never proclaimed us a “rainbow family,” but ok. The clinic’s decision to avoid creating bi-racial children seemed like a judgment on my family. Like, my family’s not terrible or anything, but as a society we wouldn’t want to go making extra families like mine if we can stick to normal, uni-racial families. Am I a bad mother because I ignored race when I chose my spouse? Would it have been more responsible of me to have my kids with a white father?
By Tina M. Kibbe
Happy New Year! As another year ends, I wanted to take a look at three news stories involving eugenics and genetics in 2013 that you may have missed.