North Carolina Ass'n for Retarded Children v. North Carolina, 420 F. Supp. 451 (M.D.N.C. 1975).
Compulsory sterilization statutes grew out of the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. Eugenic theory maintains that human defects are the result of heredity and that the race can be improved by encouraging procreation of "superior" persons and preventing the procreation of "inferior" persons. This theory was once widely accepted, and at the height of its popularity the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a compulsory sterilization statute. Although the scientific community now largely rejects compulsory eugenic sterilization, the Supreme Court has not reconsidered the matter since 1927. In light of scientific rejection of eugenics as a basis for involuntary sterilization and recent decisions regarding familial and personal autonomy and privacy, the Court could be expected to find compulsory sterilization statutes unconstitutional. Yet a lower federal court, recently presented with a challenge to North Carolina's modern compulsory eugenic sterilization statute, upheld it against equal protection and procedural and substantive due process attacks, although it held that the right to procreate is fundamental. The statute challenged in North Carolina Ass'n for Retarded Children v. North Carolina permits sterilization not only of persons likely to produce a retarded child, but also of persons who would, because retarded, be unable to care for normal children born to them. This was considered an expression of two state interests: a eugenic interest; that is, the prevention of the birth of retarded children, and an interest in prevention of "poor parenting." Using an equal protection analysis, the court found that these state interests were compelling enough to permit interference with a fundamental right.
This note proposes to examine these state interests and to suggest that they, in fact, are not compelling. Additionally, this note suggests that, although the court's construction of the statute has emasculated it with respect to the state's eugenic interest, acceptance of a state interest in preventing "poor parenting" allows sterilization of citizens on the basis of a theory of questionable constitutionality.
"Compulsory Sterilization: Equal Protection and the Quality of Life,"
University of Dayton Law Review: Vol. 2:
2, Article 10.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udlr/vol2/iss2/10