Recently, a 35-year-old woman sued a Boston-area hospital for performing a tubal ligation, thus sterilizing her, after the birth of her 9th child. Tessa Savicki states that she requested an IUD, a reversible form of birth control. Because two of her children are on welfare and she is unemployed, Tessa’s case has sparked passionate reactions and brings to mind the case of Carrie Buck.

The similarities are numerous. A poor woman sterilized against her wishes, judged by others to be unfit (just read the public comments on the news sites featuring Tessa’s story), and having children out of wedlock. There is even a slight physical resemblance. Expert testimony during the Buck vs Bell case in 1927 argued that members of the Buck family “belong to the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of anti-social whites.” The Supreme Court concurred “that Carrie Buck is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization.” Whether Tessa’s doctors were thinking the same thing or just made a mistake, they sent the same message.

Tessa Savicki (from the Boston Herald) and Carrie and Emma Buck

Tessa Savicki (image from the Boston Herald) and Carrie and Emma Buck

It’s hard to believe that 83 years separate these stories. Read more about Carrie Buck on the Eugenics Archive site.