ILNews

Court discusses Indiana's 1907 eugenic sterilization law

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court will host an educational seminar Wednesday about how Indiana adopted the first eugencial sterilization law in the world 100 years ago.

A panelist discussion and presentation about the law will be from 3 to 4:15 p.m. in the Supreme Court ;s courtroom at the statehouse.

Indiana passed the law in 1907, and subsequently similar laws were adopted in more than 30 states and a dozen countries worldwide. The Indiana Supreme Court overturned the state statute in 1921, but a new law was enacted in 1927 following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that endorsed eugenic sterilization. Approximately 2,500 people in state custody were ultimately sterilized before the governor repealed all sterilization and related restrictive marriage laws in the 1970s.

But in a 1978 case, Stump v. Sparkman, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld judicial immunity for an Indiana judge whose ex parte order led to the sterilization of a 15-year-old girl.

This CLE course will involve a lawyer, bioethicist, and a physician who will discuss this still controversial topic of involuntary sterilization in historical context; they will also reflect on how new insights from the Human Genome project have affected it.

This presentation will also be broadcast online at www.in.gov/judiciary/webcast under the "special events" link. The sold-out event is free, but standby reservations are being accepted. A total of 1.3 CLE credit hours have been approved, which is part of the ongoing Indiana Supreme Court Legal History Lecture Series. Information is available by contacting Dr. Elizabeth Osborn at (317) 232-2550.

A public dedication ceremony for a state historical marker to commemorate the law will be at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on the east lawn of the Indiana State Library and Historical Building, 140 N. Senate Ave. A free symposium titled "Indiana Eugenics: History and Legacy, 1907-2007" will also be conducted that day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the library.
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  1. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  2. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  3. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  4. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  5. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

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