A good friend and longtime reader hit me up this week and mentioned that North Carolina was attempting to right their wrongs by compensating women who were sterilized via a Eugenics program. I kinda knew that this was the practice in many states back in the day, but when I really looked into it this week, I was surprised to find that this was the practice in 33 states total. And of course, these programs targeted poor, disenfranchised, and uneducated women and men; yes, and of course most of them were Black.
More surprising to me, was the fact that this practice was allowed to continue up until 1974 in the state of North Carolina. Some of these women were told that they would lose their public assistance should they refuse to be sterilized. Quite naturally, for many poor women, this was a life or death decision
RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly 35 years after ending the country’s most active post-war sterilization program, North Carolina is the only state trying to make amends to thousands of people who cannot have children because of eugenics-inspired theories about social improvement.
Next week, victims and their relatives will tell their stories to a state task force considering compensation to victims of sterilizations that continued into 1974. Roughly 85 percent of victims were women or girls, some as young as 10. North Carolina has more victims living than any other state because a majority was sterilized after World War II, said Charmaine Fuller Cooper, director of the state Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation.
Eugenics programs gained popularity in the U.S. and other countries in the early 1900s, but most abandoned those efforts after World War II because of the association with Nazi Germany’s program aimed at racial purity. However, North Carolina’s expanded, with sterilizations peaking in the 1950s and early 1960s. About 70 percent of the state’s 7,600 sterilizations occurred after the war, state figures show.
Overt rationalization for the programs ranged from protecting the potential offspring of mentally disabled parents to improving the overall health and intellectual competence of the human race. Before the atrocities of World War II, it was seen by many — both blacks and whites — as a legitimate effort to improve society.
“Sterilization was always a cost-cutting measure,” said Paul Lombardo, a professor at Georgia State University’s College of Law. “The argument was, anybody who generates social costs shouldn’t be allowed to have children.” (source)
I did some more digging and then I found the following story by CBS, which features one of the victims of this practice in the state of North Carolina. Her story I’m sure is not unique; and, as heart-wrenching as her story happens to be, I’m pretty sure there are others with similar tales which have affected their lives. This week state officials heard testimony from many victims, but the following testimony, is a must see. Seriously, check it out:
Now, as you know, I’m not a woman: and obviously, I’m not able to bear a child. I also know a few women who for medical reasons aren’t able to bring children into this world; and. The few that I know would love nothing more than to be able to have children; and in all honesty, for them, this is a source of pain. Having said that, being a man, I can only imagine what Elaine Riddick is feeling today. A rape victim at the age of 14 that produced a child? Being labeled promiscuous by folks who don’t know you?, Then being “punished” by having your natural ability to have children away ? Can you imagine having to deal with this, or even being her?But yet some asshole who today reads a story involving what they deem “bad parenting” will always have the audacity to suggest that some parents shouldn’t be allowed to have children.
[…] Researchers estimate more than 60,000 people nationwide were sterilized during the 20th century as part of government programs. Even in states without sterilization laws, the procedures still occurred on local or informal levels. That means the real number could be 100,000 or higher, Lombardo said.
Among the 33 states with eugenics programs, North Carolina’s was unique. The state had the most open-ended law in the country, allowing doctors and social workers to refer people living at home to the state Eugenics Board for possible sterilization. In every other state, Lombardo said, people had to be either institutionalized or jailed before they could be sterilized.
According to research done by University of Vermont professor Lutz Kaelber, North Carolina averaged about 300 sterilizations per year between 1950 and 1963. (source)
|Elaine Riddick Sterilized At 14-Year-Old
I tell you one thing, North Carolina shouldn’t be the only state willing to compensate the living victims of this inhumane and dangerously racist practice. But, it’s good that they have stepped up to the plate to attempt to right their wrongs. Having said that however, I don’t think $20,000 is compensation enough. But I suppose something is better than nothing when you consider that these were mostly poor Black women who were victimize zed by the social engineering schemes of the wealthy and influential ruling class.
Maybe if the people of the pro-life movement who often cite abortions today as nothing but an extension of eugenicist programs of old as they bash Planned Parenthood got involved, women like Elaine would be offered more money. I hate to politicize this, but since the safest place for Black babies is in the womb as they say. One would think they’d put forth the effort to see that satisfactory reparations are made. I Don’t know, but you’d think they’d care enough to.