1920s or 2020?
I would like to believe that we do not live in a utilitarian society.
The news from the past few weeks has me seriously doubting that. When Dawn Wooten came forward with allegations of forced (coerced if your concerned with being gentle) hysterectomies being performed on the women of an ICE detention center in Georgia, a startling reality was once again exposed. One would hope that in the last century the US would have made some progress for women’s bodily autonomy, but I guess not.
We are back in the twenties, in more than just number. The news has brought light to the fact that officials and people in power are once again arguing that taking away someone’s right to their own body is for the greater good. The first eugenics sterilization law in the US was passed in 1907. Twenty years later, in the case of Buck V. Bell, the United States Supreme court would rule that forced sterilization of the “unfit” did not violate the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Essentially, those deemed deviant from societies patriarchal white norms were LEGALLY ALLOWED to be sterilized.
It was stated in the case of Buck V. Bell that “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” (https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/274/200). This was enough to have her sterilized. Carrie Buck was raped. The United States Criminal Justice System blamed her. So, they took away her ability to have anymore children.
It was not about her being unfit to be a mother. It was about her deviating from the set societal and historical norms. Deviance is constructed from cultural, historical, and social norms. So until something drastic is done to change their norms, what is deemed deviant will remain the same.
Personally, I have a bit of an issue accepting that taking away MY right to decide if I want to have children on the utilitarian argument that it is what is best for society sounds like a load of crap. How can one single person make that much of a difference.
Utilitarianism is defined as the ideology of doing what provides the greatest amount of good for the greatest number. How does removing the ability of women work towards a greater good?
Most of the state’s laws were repealed by the 1970s but forced sterilizations have never really stopped. They have been happening in women’s prisons and detention centers across the United States ever since the beginning of the twentieth century.
Our legal systems ruling on these cases, cases of eugenics would go on to become a model for Nazi Germany.
Sterilization is used as a means of controlling ‘deviant’ populations. Go to prison for breaking the law, they might sterilize you. Get detained by ICE, they might sterilize you. It is a fear tactic to maintain the set social order those in power want to continue to maintain.
To this day the Supreme Court has never expressly overturned Buck v. Bell.
Until this happens there is no way to truly ensure that forced hysterectomies are stopped.
How does it feel to know that deviance today is still being dealt with in the EXACT same manner as 100 years ago?