From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Kentucky Sickle Cell Disease Detection Act of 1972 - KRS 402.310-340

In 1972, when the National Sickle-Cell Anemia Control Act became law, millions of dollars were authorized for state research, screening, and counseling programs. The Kentucky Sickle Cell Disease Detection Act of 1972 went into effect January 1, 1973; it required all newborn African American babies and African Americans applying for a marriage license to be tested for Sickle Cell Anemia.

The Secretary for Health and Family Services was responsible for adopting the rules and regulations for the administration and enforcement of the law. The testing was to be confidential, and the sample was to be sent to the Division of Laboratory Services, State Department of Health, or to an approved laboratory.

As with other couples applying for marriage, their  samples would also be tested for any other genetically-transmitted diseases that would be reflected in hemoglobin. If both members of the couple tested positive, they were to receive genetic counseling from a doctor or be referred to the Department of Health or an approved agency. Applicants could not be denied a marriage license due to the test results.

Dr. Maurice Rabb, a member of the National NAACP, and others were opposed to the law. Dr. Rabb  appeared at the hearing held by the Kentucky Board of Health in January 1973 to voice his concern that the new law was targeted at one group of people when all people should be tested. Lyman T. Johnson, who was also present at the meeting, questioned whether the new law was an infringement on the rights of African Americans.

In 1974, the testing of African American newborns was repealed. That same year, KRS 402.320, Kentucky Sickle Cell Disease Detection Act of 1972, Revised Statute, Section 1, was amended for the continued testing of African American marriage applicants.

Blood tests are no longer required of any marriage applicant in Kentucky. The most recently revised version of the Sickle Cell Disease Detection Act of 1972 makes testing and counseling voluntarily available to all marriage applicants.

For more see Ky Acts ch. 122, sec. 1; Repealed 1974 Ky Acts ch. 273, sec. 3; Ky Acts ch. 273, sec. 1; Kentucky Revised Statutes KRS Chapter 402.310; "Sickle Cell Law draws opposition," Sunday Herald-Leader, 1/28/1973, p. 50; and "Sickle Cell Testing Law now in effect," Lexington Leader, 3/16/1973, p. 10.

For more about the nation-wide legislative attention suddenly given to Sickle Cell Anemia in the 1970s, see President Richard Nixon, "155 - Statement on Signing the National Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act," 5/16/1972, available online at; Patient in the Womb, by E. P. Volpe; and Backdoor to Eugenics, by T. Duster.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Rabb, Maurice F., Sr.
NKAA Entry: Johnson, Lyman T. [Johnson v. Board of Trustees]
NKAA Source: Sunday Herald-Leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Lexington leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Patient in the womb
NKAA Source: Backdoor to eugenics

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Kentucky Sickle Cell Disease Detection Act of 1972 - KRS 402.310-340,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 28, 2022,

Last modified: 2021-11-17 18:32:55