HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Commentary: Buck v. Bell

Jasmine Harris (UC Davis), Commentary: Buck v. Bell, SSRN:

Buck v. Bell has garnered much attention from legal historians and scholars across several areas including reproductive rights and disability law. Retrospective accounts profess collective enlightenment and vehemently reject the possibility of such overt inhumanity today. Yet Buck’s viability is not limited to a cautionary tale. In less than 1,000 words, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes sent seismic ripples across the law of reproductive rights. Although the case remains on the books, it is rarely cited as legal precedent except to distinguish cases before courts. Rather, the power of Buck lies in its commentary on how the bodies of disfavored populations remain subject to state regulation and its implications for modern permutations of eugenic principles. Accordingly, Buck v. Bell was “never about mental deficiency; it was always a matter of sexual morality and social deviance.”

| Permalink


Post a comment