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ID 10255

Buck vs. Bell Supreme Court Decision

Buck vs. Bell Supreme Court Decision
This is the complete text of the Supreme Court opinion that upheld the legality of eugenic sterilization. The Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble Minded sought to sterilize Carrie Buck, who mother and daughter were also deemed to be feebleminded. The opinion includes Justice Holmes infamous addage, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."
260. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES. No. 292. - October Term, 1926. Carrie Buck, by R.G. Shelton, her Guardian and Next Friend, Plaintiff in Error, vs. J.H. Bell, Superintendent of the State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble Minded. In Error to the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State of Virginia. [May 2, 1927.] Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the Court. This is a writ of error to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State of Virginia, affirming a judgment of the Circuit Court of Amherst County, by which the defendant in error, the superintendent of the State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble Minded, was ordered to perform the operation of salpingectomy upon Carrie Buck, the plaintiff in error, for the purpose of making her sterile. 143 Va. 310. The case comes here upon the contention that the statute authorizing the judgment is void under the Fourteenth Amendment as denying the plaintiff in error due process of law and equal protection of the laws. Carrie Buck is a feeble minded white woman who was committed to the State Colony above mentioned in due form. She is the daughter of a feeble minded mother in the same institution, and the mother of an illegitimate feeble minded child. She was eighteen years old at the time of the trial of her case in the Circuit Court, in the latter part of 1924. An Act of Virginia approved March 20, 1924, recites that the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, under careful safeguard, &c.; that the sterilization may be effected in males by vasectomy and in females by salpingectomy, without serious pain or substantial danger to life; that
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