Project Overview

In 1907, a new law passed by the state legislature and signed by the Governor of Indiana provided for the involuntary sterilization of "confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists." Although it was eventually found to be unconstitutional, this law is widely regarded as the first eugenics sterilization legislation passed in the world. In 1927, a revised law was implemented and before it was repealed in 1974, over 2,300 of the State’s most vulnerable citizens were involuntarily sterilized. In addition, Indiana established a state-funded Committee on Mental Defectives that carried out eugenic family studies in over twenty counties and was home to an active "better babies" movement that encouraged scientific motherhood and infant hygiene as routes to human improvement.

News Release

American Medical Association News Article

The centenary of the 1907 legislation provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the far-reaching significance of this event by exploring the largely untold history of eugenics in Indiana, and the relevance of this history to contemporary issues in human genomics, public health genetics, and reproductive health in other parts of the country. An expert project team has been assembled of historians, bioethicists, lawyers, and art/design faculty to undertake a series of scholarly and public projects to mark the 100th anniversary of the Indiana eugenics legislation. These included:

The Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) Center for Bioethics and Program in Medical Humanities & Health Studies were instrumental in the planning of, and scholarly participation in, the Indiana Eugenics Centenary events.