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Sterilization Act of 1924

The passage of the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924 demonstrates how science has been used to drive policy throughout history. In the case of the Virginia sterilization law, the science used to draft the law was based on the principles of eugenics. With the help of Harry Laughlin's Model Sterilization Law, the state of Virginia was able to pass its own law allowing sterilization of the feebleminded, expressing sterilization as a health issue that needed to be protected from the public.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Harry Hamilton Laughlin (1880-1943)

Harry Hamilton Laughlin helped lead the eugenics
movement in the United States during the early twentieth century.
The US eugenics movement of the early twentieth century sought to
reform the genetic composition of the United States population through
sterilization and other restrictive reproductive measures. Laughlin
worked as superintendent and assistant director of the Eugenics
Research Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold
Spring Harbor, New York, alongside director Charles Davenport.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Oregon State Board of Eugenics

In 1917 the Oregon State Legislature, in Salem, Oregon, passed a bill titled, 'To Prevent Procreation of Certain Classes in Oregon.' Passage of the bill created the Oregon State Board of Eugenics, an organization that presided over the forced sterilization of more than 2,600 Oregon residents from 1917 to 1981. In 1983, Legislation abolished the State Board of Eugenics, by that time called the Oregon State Board of Social Protection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922), by Harry H. Laughlin

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States is a 1922 book in which author Harry H. Laughlin argues for the necessity of compulsory sterilization in the United States based on the principles of eugenics. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century in the US focused on altering the genetic makeup of the US population by regulating immigration and sterilization, and by discouraging interracial procreation, then called miscegenation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Legal, Ethics, Publications

Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944)

Charles Benedict Davenport was an early twentieth-century experimental zoologist. Davenport founded both the Station for Experimental Evolution and the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor in New York. Though he was a talented statistician and skilled scientist, Davenport's scientific achievements are eclipsed by his lasting legacy as the scientific leader of the eugenics movement in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Human Betterment Foundation (1928-1942)

In 1928 Ezra Seymour Gosney founded the non-profit Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) in Pasadena, California to support the research and publication of the personal and social effects of eugenic sterilizations carried out in California. Led by director Gosney and secretary Paul Popenoe, the HBF collected data on thousands of individuals in California who had been involuntarily sterilized under a California state law enacted in 1909. The Foundation's assets were liquidated following Gosney's death in 1942.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Tomorrow's Children (1934)

Tomorrow's Children is a film that tells the story of Alice Mason, a young woman whom the US government forcibly sterilizes because she comes from a family with a history of alcoholism, mental illnesses, and physical disabilities, traits that they considered biologically determined and inferior. The film, released in 1934, was directed by Crane Wilbur, produced by Bryan Foy, written by Wilbur and Wallace Thurman, and released by Foy Productions Ltd.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

David Starr Jordan (1851-1931)

David Starr Jordan studied fish and promoted eugenics in the US during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his work, he embraced Charles Darwin s theory of evolution and described the importance of embryology in tracing phylogenic relationships. In 1891, he became the president of Stanford University in Stanford, California. Jordan condemned war and promoted conservationist causes for the California wilderness, and he advocated for the eugenic sterilization of thousands of Americans.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

American Eugenics Society (1926-1972)

The American Eugenics Society (AES) was established in the US by
Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Henry Crampton, Irving Fisher, and
Henry F. Osborn in 1926 to promote eugenics education programs for
the US public. The AES described eugenics as the study of improving
the genetic composition of humans through controlled reproduction of
different races and classes of people. The AES aided smaller eugenic
efforts such as the Galton Society in New York, New York, and the

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

The Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1910-1939)

From its founding in 1910 until it closed its doors in 1939, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York was the center of the American Eugenics Movement. Charles Davenport, a geneticist and biologist, founded the ERO, and served as its director until 1934. Under the direction of Davenport and his associate, superintendant Harry H. Laughlin, the influence of the ERO on science and public policy waxed during the early twentieth century until after World War II.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Buck v. Bell (1927)

In 1927, the US Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell set the legal precedent that states may sterilize inmates of public institutions because the court argued that imbecility, epilepsy, and feeblemindedness are hereditary, and that the inmates should be prevented from passing these defects to the next generation. On 2 May 1927, in an eight to one decision, the US Supreme Court ordered that Carrie Buck, feebleminded daughter of a feebleminded mother and herself the mother of a feebleminded child, be sterilized under the 1924 Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act. Buck v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Eugen Steinach (1861–1944)

Eugen Steinach researched sex hormones and their effects on mammals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. He experimented on rats by removing their testicles and implanting them elsewhere in their bodies, and he found that the testes interstitial cells produce male sex hormones. He developed the Steinach Rejuvenation Procedure, which he claimed could rejuvenate men by increasing their production of sex hormones. Steinach’s work on female sex hormones and on ovarian extracts led to the development of the first standardized injectable estrogen.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Better Babies Contests in the United States (1908–1916)

Better babies contests were competitions held in state fairs throughout the US during the early twentieth century in which babies between the ages of 6 and 48 months were judged for their health. In 1908, social activist Mary de Garmo established and held the first better babies contest at the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport, Louisiana. The contests, mirroring theories established in the US’s eugenics movement of the twentieth century, aimed to establish standards for judging infant health.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Better Babies Contests in the United States (1908–1916)

Better babies contests were competitions held in state fairs throughout the US during the early twentieth century in which babies between the ages of 6 and 48 months were judged for their health. In 1908, social activist Mary de Garmo established and held the first better babies contest at the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport, Louisiana. The contests, mirroring theories established in the US’s eugenics movement of the twentieth century, aimed to establish standards for judging infant health.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942)

In 1942, the United States Supreme Court Case of Skinner v. Oklahoma ruled that states could not legally sterilize those inmates of prisons deemed habitual criminals. Skinner v. Oklahoma was about the case of Jack Skinner, an inmate of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, who was subject to sterilization under the Oklahoma Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act of 1935. The case, decided on 1 June 1942, determined that state laws were unconstitutional if those laws enabled states to forcibly sterilize inmates deemed to be habitual criminals.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Legal

United States v. Dennett (1930)

In the 1930 US federal court case United States v. Dennett, Mary Coffin Ware Dennett was cleared of all charges of violating the anti-obscenity Comstock Act, a charge she had incurred by distributing her sex education pamphlet called The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People. The United States Postal Service charged Dennett under the Comstock Act, which prohibited the distribution of sex-related materials through the mail.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

United States v. University Hospital (1984)

The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals' 1984 decision United States v. University Hospital, State University Hospital of New York at Stony Brook set a significant precedent for affirming parental privilege to make medical decisions for handicapped newborns, while limiting the ability of the federal government to intervene. The ruling stemmed from the 1983 case involving an infant born with severe physical and mental congenital defects; the infant was only identified as Baby Jane Doe.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

“The Stein-Leventhal Syndrome: A Curable Form of Sterility” (1958), by Irving Freiler Stein Sr.

In 1958, Irving Freiler Stein Sr. published “The Stein-Leventhal Syndrome: A Curable Form of Sterility” documenting his findings on the diagnosis and surgical treatment of Stein-Leventhal syndrome. Stein-Leventhal syndrome, later called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), affects the reproductive health of women. Common symptoms include excess body hair, a lack of menstrual cycle or amenorrhea, and infertility. As of 2017, polycystic ovarian syndrome is considered the most common reproductive health disorder among women in the United States.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Norman Haire (1892-1952)

Norman Haire was a physician who advocated for eugenics, which is the betterment of human population by promoting positive traits, and birth control rights in the twentieth century in both Australia and the UK. In the UK, Haire joined the Malthusian League, a contraception advocacy organization, and helped the League open the first physician-supervised birth control clinic, called Walworth Women’s Welfare Centre in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Physician Labeling Rule (2006)

In 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, published the “Requirements on Content and Format of Labeling for Human Prescription Drug and Biological Products,” also called the Physician Labeling Rule, to improve the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs and drug products. Within the Physician Labeling Rule, the FDA includes a section titled “Use in Specific Populations” or Section 8, which refers to drugs used by pregnant women, lactating women, and people of reproductive capacity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Retinoids As Teratogens

Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential vitamin in the daily functioning of human beings that helps regulate cellular differentiation of epithelial tissue. Studies have shown that an excess of vitamin A can affect embryonic development and result in teratogenesis, or the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Excess intake of vitamin A and retinoids by pregnant women often results malformations to fetuses' skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries (1936)

In the 1936 case United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City, New York, confirmed that physicians had the right to distribute contraceptives to patients for medical purposes. In January 1933, US Customs confiscated a package of contraceptives imported from Japan by US physician Hannah Stone.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Exchange Transfusion for Jaundiced Newborns in the United States

Exchange transfusion is the replacement of blood from newborn infants with elevated bilirubin level in their blood stream with donor blood containing normal bilirubin levels. Newborn infants that experience jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and eyes, have a buildup of bilirubin, a chemical that occurs during red blood cell breakdown, or hemolysis. Exchange transfusion is a therapy developed throughout the 1940s by Louis Diamond and a group of surgeons at the Children’s Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Malthusian League (1877–1927)

The Malthusian League, founded in London, England, in 1877 promoted the use of contraception to limit family size. Activists Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant established the Malthusian League after they were arrested and exonerated for publishing a pamphlet describing techniques to prevent pregnancy. Founders based the league on the principles of Thomas Malthus, a British nineteenth century economist, who wrote on the perils of a population growing beyond the resources available to support it.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach, Reproduction

Irving Freiler Stein Sr. (1887–1976)

Irving Freiler Stein Sr. was a physician who studied women’s reproductive health during the twentieth century in the United States. In partnership with his colleague, Michael Leventhal, Stein identified a women’s reproductive disorder related to elevated male sex hormones, or androgens. The syndrome was originally called Stein-Leventhal syndrome and later known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. While studying the syndrome, Stein also helped establish a treatment for the condition, through the surgical removal of ovarian tissues.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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