The West Virginia Human Sterilization Act gives parents or legal guardians the authority to file a circuit court petition to sterilize a person under their care. The court may then enter a legal order designating a physician to perform the sterilization procedure.
Under the West Virginia law, patients with "insanity, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy" could be sterilized.
Between 1929 and 1956, 15 men and 83 women were sterilized in West Virginia under the sterilization act, according to a recent study by University of Vermont sociology professor Lutz Kaelber. Thirty-three state residents were sterilized in 1955 alone.
Fifty-two percent of those sterilized were deemed "mentally deficient," 23 percent "mentally ill" and another 23 percent weren't classified.
The last known forced-sterilization case in the U.S. was in 1981.
The House bill repealing West Virginia's sterilization act now goes to the Senate.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.