Buck v. Bell, No. 292

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHOLMES
Citation274 U.S. 200,47 S.Ct. 584,71 L.Ed. 1000
Decision Date02 May 1927
Docket NumberNo. 292
PartiesBUCK v. BELL, Superintendent of State Colony Epileptics and Feeble Minded

274 U.S. 200
47 S.Ct. 584
71 L.Ed. 1000
BUCK

v.

BELL, Superintendent of State Colony Epileptics and Feeble Minded.

No. 292.
Argued April 22, 1927.
Decided May 2, 1927.

Page 201

Mr. I. P. Whitehead, of Lynchburg, Va., for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 201-202 intentionally omitted]

Page 203

Mr. A. E. Strode, of Lynchburg, Va., for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 203-205 intentionally omitted]

Page 205

Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a writ of error to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State of Virginia, affirming a judgment of the Circuit Court of Amherst County, by which the defendant in error, the superintendent of the State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble Minded, was ordered to perform the operation of salpingectomy upon Carrie Buck, the plaintiff in error, for the purpose of making her sterile. 143 Va. 310, 130 S. E. 516. The case comes here upon the contention that the statute authorizing the judgment is void under the Fourteenth Amendment as denying to the plaintiff in error due process of law and the equal protection of the laws.

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. She was eighteen years old at the time of the trial of her case in the Circuit Court in the latter part of 1924. An Act of Virginia approved March 20, 1924 (Laws 1924, c. 394) recites that the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, under careful safeguard, etc.; that the sterilization may be effected in males by vasectomy and in females by salpingectomy, without serious pain or substantial danger to life; that the Commonwealth is supporting in various institutions many defective persons who if now discharged would become

Page 206

a menace but if incapable of procreating might be discharged with safety and become self-supporting with benefit to themselves and to society; and that experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility, etc. The statute then enacts that whenever the superintendent of certain institutions including the abovenamed State Colony shall be of opinion that it is for the best interest of the patients and of society that an inmate under his care should be sexually...

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207 practice notes
  • Massachusetts v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Sers., Nos. 10–2204
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 31, 2012
    ...tested by this rational basis standard, famously called by Justice Holmes the “last resort of constitutional argument,” Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 208, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 (1927), rarely succeed. Courts accept as adequate any plausible factual basis, Williamson v. Lee Optical of Ok......
  • Moore's Sterilization, In re, No. 72
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • January 29, 1976
    ...(1962). The right of a state to sterilize retarded or insane persons was first upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 (1927). In that case, in upholding a Virginia sterilization law, the Court held that the state may provide for ......
  • People v. Barrett, No. S180612.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 30, 2012
    ...history is familiar to those trained in the law. For it was Justice Holmes's infamous opinion for the high court in Buck v. Bell (1927) 274 U.S. 200, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 that upheld a Virginia [144 Cal.Rptr.3d 691]statute [281 P.3d 778]authorizing the compulsory “sterilization of me......
  • People v. Barrett, No. S180612.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 30, 2012
    ...history is familiar to those trained in the law. For it was Justice Holmes's infamous opinion for the high court in Buck v. Bell (1927) 274 U.S. 200, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 that upheld a Virginia [144 Cal.Rptr.3d 691]statute [281 P.3d 778]authorizing the compulsory “sterilization of me......
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196 cases
  • Massachusetts v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Sers., Nos. 10–2204
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 31, 2012
    ...tested by this rational basis standard, famously called by Justice Holmes the “last resort of constitutional argument,” Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 208, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 (1927), rarely succeed. Courts accept as adequate any plausible factual basis, Williamson v. Lee Optical of Ok......
  • Moore's Sterilization, In re, No. 72
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • January 29, 1976
    ...(1962). The right of a state to sterilize retarded or insane persons was first upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 (1927). In that case, in upholding a Virginia sterilization law, the Court held that the state may provide for ......
  • People v. Barrett, No. S180612.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 30, 2012
    ...history is familiar to those trained in the law. For it was Justice Holmes's infamous opinion for the high court in Buck v. Bell (1927) 274 U.S. 200, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 that upheld a Virginia [144 Cal.Rptr.3d 691]statute [281 P.3d 778]authorizing the compulsory “sterilization of me......
  • People v. Barrett, No. S180612.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 30, 2012
    ...history is familiar to those trained in the law. For it was Justice Holmes's infamous opinion for the high court in Buck v. Bell (1927) 274 U.S. 200, 47 S.Ct. 584, 71 L.Ed. 1000 that upheld a Virginia [144 Cal.Rptr.3d 691]statute [281 P.3d 778]authorizing the compulsory “sterilization of me......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 books & journal articles
  • ABORTION, STERILIZATION, AND THE UNIVERSE OF REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 5, April 2022
    • April 1, 2022
    ...and reproductive decisions, including through antimiscegenation laws." (citations omitted)). (24.) Id. at 1786 (citing Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (25.) Buck. 274 U.S. at 207. (26.) Box, 139 S. Ct. at 1782-93 (Thomas, J., concurring). (27.) Id. (28.) Id. at 1786 (briefly discussing steriliza......
  • PUBLIC HEALTH POLICING AND THE CASE AGAINST VACCINE MANDATES.
    • United States
    • St. Thomas Law Review Vol. 33 Nbr. 2, March 2021
    • March 22, 2021
    ...(165) See generally LANI GUINIER, TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY: FUNDAMENTAL FAIRNESS IN REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY (1994). (166) Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 200 (167) Id. at 207. (168) Goodwin, supra note 143, at 959. (169) See HARRIET A. WASHINGTON, MEDICAL APARTHEID: THE DARK HISTORY OF MEDICAL ......
  • REPRODUCTIVE INDETERMINACY AND RIGHTS DISCOURSE IN FROZEN EMBRYO DISPUTES.
    • United States
    • Columbia Journal of Gender and Law Vol. 42 Nbr. 1, December 2021
    • December 22, 2021
    ...the right 'to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.'" Id. (internal citations omitted). (284) Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 205 (1927); Khiara M. Bridges, White Privilege and White Disadvantage, 105 VA. L. REV. 449, 454-55 (2019). (285) The other case addressing......
  • 'HEY STEPHEN'.
    • United States
    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 120 Nbr. 6, April 2022
    • April 1, 2022
    ...of race or color."). (77.) 189 U.S. 475 (1903). (78.) Giles, 189 U.S. at 487-88. (79.) 92 U.S. 542 (1876). (80.) 325 U.S. 91 (1945). (81.) 274 U.S. 200, 207 (82.) 417 U.S. 484, 496-97 (1974) ("There is no risk from which men are protected and women are not. Likewise, there is no risk from w......
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1 provisions
  • Chapter 130, SCR 47 – Eugenics.
    • United States
    • California Session Laws
    • January 1, 2003
    ...the nation's first eugenics-based sterilization law in 1907; and WHEREAS, In the United States Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell (1927) 274 U.S. 200, Carrie Buck sued to overturn a Virginia law that allowed state-mandated reproductive sterilization of persons whom the state deemed "imbecil......

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