The Supreme Court ruled that states could not require sterilization because of criminality or moral turpitude.
Oklahoma, as well as other states in 1942, authorized sterilization of “habitual criminals” after multiple convictions for enumerated crimes of “moral turpitude.” The Oklahoma law did not apply to those persons guilty of embezzlement and other white-collar crimes. The justification for the law, inspired by the eugenics movement, was the theory that some traits of criminality and mental defect were biologically inherited. Skinner, who had been convicted once for stealing chickens and twice for armed robbery, was ordered to submit to a vasectomy.
By a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, but two justices disagreed with the majority’s constitutional reasoning in the decision. Speaking for the majority, Justice William O. Douglas
Buck v. Bell
Griswold v. Connecticut
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