In the case of Buck v. Bell (274 U.S. 200 (1927)), Carrie was an institutionalized ‘feeble-minded’ person who had an illegitimate child. Under Virginia law, the institution wanted to sterilize her. She argued that the law was an unconstitutional violation of substantive due process because she had a fundamental rightto procreation.
- The US Supreme Court found that there was no fundamental right to procreation, and so the Virginia sterilization law was constitutional so long as there was a rational basis for it.
- “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
This case was never explicitly overruled, but later, the US Supreme Court found that there was a fundamental right to procreation in Skinner v. Oklahoma (316 U.S. 535 (1942)).
- Btw, Carrie was later found to be of perfectly normal intelligence. There was evidence that her child was the result of rape, and that her foster parents had her committed to cover up the crime.
- There was also evidence that her lawyer in this case deliberately lost the case. He was a member of the governing board of the institution in which Carrie resided, had personally authorized her sterilization order, and was a strong supporter of eugenic sterilization.