Passage of Laws

There has never been a voluntary or compulsory sterilization law in Hawaii.  The sterilization of feeble-minded and mentally ill individuals who were institutionalized was proposed in 1953 in House Bill 666, but this bill never passed (Paul, p. 565).


An editorial appeared in the Neuropsychiatric Aspects of Sterilization in 1944, stating that even without a sterilization law in Hawaii, a “decision as to what is best, not only for the individuals concerned, but for the nation and for the society in general” needed to be made (quoted in Paul, p. 567).  The article then went on to state that “until such a decision is forthcoming from a proper authority, the ethical non-Catholic doctor, remembering that his fundamental mission is to relieve suffering and prolong life, must let his own conscience be his guide” (Paul, p. 567).


Groups Targeted and Victimized

It is believed that individuals in Hawaii were never forced to undergo sterilization. However, Dr. Nils P. Larsen, medical director of Queens Hospital, established a post-partum sterilization program the the pre-World War II period that applied to mothers of large families in Hawaii (Paul, p. 566).  A 1950 report noted that "post-partum sterilization has been undertaken among rural uneducated women on a considerable scale" (Paul, p. 565). This procedure was then continued by doctors on plantations by doctors who deemed the sterilization a "necessary maternal health measure" (Paul, p. 566). Dr. Larsen advocated that the criminally insane be sterilized, as well as those who are lepers, as noted by John  Tayman in his study of the infamous leper colony there, Molokai (p. 239).

Major Proponents

Roswell Johnson, was an enthusiastic supporter of both the eugenics and birth control movements, as he saw the two movements "intimately related" (Gillette, p. 137). After completing his Ph.D in sociology in 1934 Johnson taught at the University of Hawaii, and worked as the executive secretary for the Palama Settlement for the poor and disadvantaged in Honolulu (Gillette, p. 139). Johnson did not see eye to eye with the head of the society, Dr. Philip S. Platt and was soon moved to a new position.

Current Issues

Project Prevention, previously known as Children Requiring a Caring Kommunituy or Crack sought to stop the passage of medical disabilities and emotional problems to the next generation (Walden). When asked about the project, Barbara Harris, the project's director, said "We don't allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted children, and yet these women are literally having litters of children" (Walden). Fliers were passed out during March in 2010, offering voluntary sterilizations to the public.  The current project offers $200 for current and former drug users to get sterilized (Walden). Project Prevention claims to be completely voluntary. However, critics argue that the project is aimed at substance abusers, and addictions "make this a choice to take money under duress" (Walden). Referrals are beginning to come to Project Prevention from sources such as publicly funded jails, probation centers, drug treatment centers and hospitals. The National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), one of Project Prevention's biggest critics, has called the program a "dangerous vector for medical misinformation and political propaganda" and have accused Project Prevention of reporting untrue stories while promoting stereotypes and prejudices against pregnant women (Walden).

Gillette, Aaron. 2007. Eugenics and the Nature-Nurture Debate in the Twentieth Century. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Paul, Julius. 1965. "'Three Generations of Imbeciles Are Enough': State Eugenic Sterilization
 Laws in American Thought and Practice." Washington, D.C.: Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

, John. 2007. The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai. New York: Scribner.

Walden, Andrew. 2010. "'We don't allow dogs to breed' Eugenics Sterilization Squad arrives in Hawaii: Star Bulletin says 'not racist'". Hawaii Free Press. Available at <http://hawaiifreepress.com/main/ArticlesMain/tabid/56/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1819/categoryId/47/quotWe-dont-allow-dogs-to-breedquot-Eugenics-Sterilization-Squad-arrives-in-Hawaii-StarBulletin-says-ldquonot-racistrdquo.aspx>