No sterilization law has ever been
passed in Maryland. In
the 1960s, proposals for punitive sterilization, otherwise known as the
Bill, existed, and a joint compulsory and voluntary sterilization law
proposed in 1963, but neither was passed (Paul, p. 581).
In 1960, Maryland Senate debated a bill that would punish women
convicted of bearing two or more children out of wedlock by fine
($1,000) or prison sentence (under three years) or both.The bill passed
in the Senate but lost in the House of Delegates (Kluchin, p. 79).
Currently, Maryland performs newborn screening with parental consent,
but the screening consists of many tests the parents do not
individually consent to (Lombardo, p. 232).
The E. Case
Even in the absence of a compulsory sterilization law, states could (and typically did) have laws authorizing sterilization when it was ostensibly dictated by medical necessity. In the case of Maryland, medical necessity was defined as situations in which sterilization was best for the patient’s health (i.e., therapeutic), but not, unlike in other states, to prevent people from producing offspring (i.e., eugenic; Paul, p. 580). One such case was of 25-year-old G. E., a mother of five children diagnosed with schizophrenia and housed at Maryland's Springfield State Hospital. Having married and having had children at a young age, she suffered mental breakdowns after birth, and after estrangement from her husband had three more children of whom her husband was not the father (the issues of her possible lack to capacity to consent to sexual activity due to mental illness and the possible presence of sexual assault were apparently not considered). Circuit Judge Herman Moser ordered her sterilized, with the approval of both her siblings and (estranged) husband (see Paul, p. 579; Time Magazine).
In 1980, Washington Star wrote an article that brought to light the violations of federal regulations across the state. For example, Prince George's General Hospital performed sterilizations on minors because the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology was unaware of federal policies prohibiting sterilization of persons under twenty-one. In 1978, the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, a private hospital, performed the most sterilzations in the state. Its chairman of gynecology, Dr. Everett Diggs, like the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Sinai Hospital, simply chose to ignore the federal regulations on age requirement for consent and performed sterilizations on minors because they considered it morally right (Kluchin, pp. 209-10).
In this case, vigorous opposition to the ordered sterilization came from Roman Catholics, including leaders of the church. One of them termed the order "totalitarian, un-American and irreligious" (Time Magazine).
BibliographyKluchin, Rebecca M. 2009. Fit to Be Tied: Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in America, 1950-1980. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press
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.
Time Magazine. 1954. “Furor over Sterilization” (Nov. 22). Available at <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,806954,00.html>