Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Andrew R. Brulle


For more than 50 years, sterilization of mentally retarded persons was an accepted practice in many states as a way to reduce the number of persons born with mental defects. In recent years, the practice has come under heavy challenge, both medically and legally. In the United States between 1907 and 1963, approximately 12,500 sexual sterilizations were performed. In 1970, 27 states had particular grounds on which sterilization could be ordered. As of 1979, only 19 states still had statutes that allowed sterilization for eugenic reasons. This paper examines the history of the sterilization laws and the grounds for invoking sterilization statutes. This paper also examines important court decisions regarding eugenic sterilization laws, the possible causes of mental retardation, and the psychological effects that sterilization may cause. This paper also includes a survey that was designed to measure the attitudes of the respondents regarding the topic of sexual sterilization and the survey results.

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Legal Studies Commons