The Lancet medical journal released a report Wednesday revealing that 54 people who underwent Utah’s eugenic sterilization program are still surviving. An estimated 830 people were subjected to the state-sanctioned practice, which started in 1925 and ended in 1970.
The report blamed the state’s eugenicists for the introduction of the program. Eugenicists believed that the character traits of people deemed to be “habitually sexually criminal, insane, idiotic, imbecile, feebleminded, or epileptic” are hereditary. Hence, eugenicists thought that these people would produce “socially inadequate” offspring.
Even though this theory was debunked in the 1940s, the legislation authorizing the program still remained in place with the new rationale that the targeted groups were “unlikely to fulfill their parental obligations.” This informed the new legislation that still mandated compulsory sterilization using this new rationale in the 1960s.
While the legislation seemed to require consent from the victims, this was not the case. The report uncovers that some surviving victims were vehemently opposed to the process while others did not seem to understand the procedure itself.
The report describes Utah’s practice as more “egregious” in comparison to other states as it seemed to have been performed on a larger population despite its relatively smaller populace. The authors criticize the state’s failure to provide any forms of restitution as other states have done in the past.
The report calls for the fast compensation of these victims whose reproductive rights have been infringed upon by Utah’s government. It also cites the possibility of there being more survivors of the program. Additionally, the authors reiterate the importance of medical and public health practitioners standing firm against historical injustices.