The Compulsory Eugenic Sterilization (CES) of certain classes of individuals within our society has been practiced in the United States since 1907. This practice is based upon a theory of eugenics which assumes that certain types of people are socially more desirable than others and that the improvement of future generations can be accomplished through decreasing the rate of propagation of the inferior individuals and thus increasing the proportion of the desirable types. Proponents of the principle, relying on scientific claims that certain types of mental disabilities are inheritable traits, advocate the sterilization of those persons possessing these traits. Recently the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Nebraska CES statutes in State v. Cavitt. The Nebraska plan for the sterilization of the mentally deficient does not require such a finding of inheritability as a prerequisite for the operation. The decision in the Cavitt case was that of a minority of the court. This minority opinion was given effect by the Nebraska constitutional provision which requires a vote of five of the seven judges of the supreme court to declare an act of the legislature unconstitutional. While such an issue raises interesting constitutional questions in itself, it is not central to the theme of this article. It is the purpose of this Note to examine the decision in Cavitt with respect to the constitutional attacks advanced and the scientific basis upon which CES schemes rest.
Larry L. Langdale,
Constitutional Law—The Sterilization of the Mentally Deficient—A Reasonable Exercise of the Police Power?—State v. Cavitt, 182 Neb. 713, 157 N.W.2d 171 (1968),
47 Neb. L. Rev. 784
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol47/iss4/11