North Carolina To Compensate Thousands Of Forced-Sterilization Victims

sterlization-pamThe North Carolina Eugenics Board was created in 1933 and operated for decades with little public scrutiny. It used rudimentary IQ tests and gossip from neighbors to justify sterilization of young girls from poor families.

Many people don’t realize that portions of the U.S. South had eugenics programs that operated through the 1970s. NPR reports on some horrifying fairly-recent history:

Barely 40 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a single mother on welfare, or a patient in a mental hospital in North Carolina, to be sterilized against her will.

But North Carolina wasn’t alone: More than half of states in the U.S. had eugenics laws, some of which persisted into the 1970s.

North Carolina is now considering compensating its sterilization victims. A state panel heard from some of them Wednesday. They were mostly poor and uneducated — both black and white — and often just girls when it happened.

Elaine Riddick says she was sterilized at the age of 14. The state of North Carolina said Riddick was promiscuous and didn’t get along well with others. “I couldn’t get along well with others because I was hungry. I was cold. I was a victim of rape,” Riddick says.

Nearly 7,600 men, women and children as young as 10 were sterilized under North Carolina’s eugenics laws. While other state sterilization laws focused mainly on criminals and people in mental institutions, North Carolina was one of the few to expand its reach to women who were poor. Sterilization was seen as a way to limit the public cost of welfare.

The North Carolina Eugenics Board was created in 1933 and operated for decades with little public scrutiny. It used rudimentary IQ tests and gossip from neighbors to justify sterilization of young girls from poor families who hung around the wrong crowd or didn’t do well in school.

If North Carolina lawmakers decide to pay victims, it could be costly. While the number of sterilizations in other states slowed down after the Nazi atrocities of World War II came to light, North Carolina’s eugenics program ramped up. An estimated 3,000 victims are still living and could qualify for compensation.

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  • http://twitter.com/panavatar Lynae Zebest

    It was NOT just portions of the US South. From Wikipedia:

    “The state of California was at the vanguard of the American eugenics movement, performing about 20,000 sterilizations or one third of the 60,000 nationwide from 1909 up until the 1960s.””A favorable report on the results of sterilization in California, the state with the most sterilizations by far, was published in book form by the biologist Paul Popenoe and was widely cited by the Nazi government as evidence that wide-reaching sterilization programs were feasible and humane.”

    “…many doctors had to find clever ways of subtly implementing eugenic euthanasia in various medical institutions. For example, a mental institution in Lincoln, Illinois fed its incoming patients milk infected with tuberculosis (reasoning that genetically fit individuals would be resistant), resulting in 30-40% annual death rates. Other doctors practiced eugenicide through various forms of lethal neglect.”

    “A 1927 Fortune magazine poll found that 2/3 of respondents supported eugenic sterilization of “mental defectives”, 63% supported sterilization of criminals, and only 15% opposed both.”

    “The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs, including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.”

    Eugenics was a nationwide movement. Most well-respected scientists, philanthropists, universities, politicians and institutions supported it.

    • DeepCough

      What a lot of people don’t realize is that eugenics isn’t really a new thing: it’s been practiced by just about every major civilization for millennia, it did not necessarily start 200 years ago to influence those filthy Nazis to commit their own version of genocide.

    • Jin The Ninja

      Thank you for the link!

      Some in the [mainstream]environmental movement, particularly those in North America, have co-opted some of the ideology of the eugenics movement- and often use it in discussions about 3rd world over population. This is a complete subversion of the ideals of radical environmentalism which includes an anti-capitalist and social justice framework as an integral aspect of saving the planet.

      Not only is this subtly racist (and probably genocidal), but it reflects a uniquely western legacy of population control.

      Al Jaz, had an amazing article, about a family of 9 (7 kids 2 adults) living in a rio favela who utilised 1/4th of the overall resources a family of 4 suburban americans did in one year. including energy consumption, carbon emissions, and garbage output.

      I am not saying the world necessarily has the natural resources to cope with continued pop’n growth, but let us at least look at the real monster of vast over consumption, and resource exploitation global capitalism not only promotes but requires! if we divided resources fairly and equitably and switched to sustainable agriculture methods the world over,  there would be no reason to grasp at the HORRIFIC historical legacy of eugenics and sterilisation.

      All of this is even more ironic and unjust when you consider it is the third world and global south that suffer disproportionately from climate change, pollution, and environmental racism.

      http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2011/6/30/climate_chaos_christian_parentis_new_book

      excellent link worth checking out.

      • Tuna Ghost

        Who exactly in the environmental movement has co-opted the ideology of the eugenics movement?  Can you back that up with…well, anything?

        • Jin The Ninja

           Hi tuna, I wasn’t referring to the deep green or radical ecology movement i was specifically referring to
          the frequent discussions i hear on : alternet, commondreams, and in influential books like Gaia theory, where it is frequently posited that the worlds high third world pop’n has caused the world to exceed load capacity. because i am a humanist and a holistic minded person, i see the disparity of resource equity and wealth distribution as the primary cause. I see destructive mining and resource exploitation, industrial pollution and a massive fossil fuel infrastructure as the primary causes of climate change and industrial agriculture as a primary cancer in third world starvation and poverty. I am not attacking the environmental movement by any means, I am simply pointing out what I see as a continued refusal to accept responsibility  of the terrible excesses of western capitalism- and place the blame on people of colour and the third world. I see a consistent blame placed on third world countries for overpop’n but rarely see discussions of an anti-capitalist nature that would critique western energy and resource consumption which proportionally the highest per capita. I see this as extremely problematic.

          • Andrew

            Exactly.  It’s the people of the first world who should be sterilized.

  • http://twitter.com/panavatar Lynae Zebest

    It was NOT just portions of the US South. From Wikipedia:

    “The state of California was at the vanguard of the American eugenics movement, performing about 20,000 sterilizations or one third of the 60,000 nationwide from 1909 up until the 1960s.””A favorable report on the results of sterilization in California, the state with the most sterilizations by far, was published in book form by the biologist Paul Popenoe and was widely cited by the Nazi government as evidence that wide-reaching sterilization programs were feasible and humane.”

    “…many doctors had to find clever ways of subtly implementing eugenic euthanasia in various medical institutions. For example, a mental institution in Lincoln, Illinois fed its incoming patients milk infected with tuberculosis (reasoning that genetically fit individuals would be resistant), resulting in 30-40% annual death rates. Other doctors practiced eugenicide through various forms of lethal neglect.”

    “A 1927 Fortune magazine poll found that 2/3 of respondents supported eugenic sterilization of “mental defectives”, 63% supported sterilization of criminals, and only 15% opposed both.”

    “The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs, including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.”

    Eugenics was a nationwide movement. Most well-respected scientists, philanthropists, universities, politicians and institutions supported it.

  • DeepCough

    What a lot of people don’t realize is that eugenics isn’t really a new thing: it’s been practiced by just about every major civilization for millennia, it did not necessarily start 200 years ago to influence those filthy Nazis to commit their own version of genocide.

  • http://profiles.google.com/saintzedofourlostyouth R Z

    Thank you for the link!

    Some in the environmental movement, particularly those in North America, have co-opted some of the ideology of the eugenics movement- and often use it in discussions about 3rd world over population.

    Not only is this subtly racist (and probably genocidal), but it reflects a uniquely western legacy of population control.

    Al Jaz, had an amazing article, about a family of 9 (7 kids 2 adults) living in a rio favela who utilised 1/4th of the overall resources a family of 4 suburban americans did in one year. including energy consumption, carbon emissions, and garbage output.

    I am not saying the world necessarily has the natural resources to cope with continued pop’n growth, but let us at least look at the real monster of vast over consumption, and resource exploitation global capitalism not only promotes but requires! if we divided resources fairly and equitably and switched to sustainable agriculture methods the world over,  there would be no reason to grasp at the HORRIFIC historical legacy of eugenics and sterilisation.

  • GoodDoktorBad

    Maybe “mental defectives” should be sterilized. Of course people who judge others as mental defectives are also mentally defective and should also be sterilized….. and then raped repeatedly by their victims. 

    Fair is fair. 

  • Anonymous

    Maybe “mental defectives” should be sterilized. Of course people who judge others as mental defectives are also mentally defective and should also be sterilized….. and then raped repeatedly by their victims. 

    Fair is fair. 

  • greengestalt

    Note that Hitler “sold” his Eugenics movement by using the USA’s as an example.  “We need to keep up with the USA” is almost a direct quote.  Not everyone (till he got absolute power) shared his dislike of Jews, but the paranoia of being “Genetically infected” with a whole crazy quilt of foreigners and defectives helped the pill go down.

  • Anonymous

    Note that Hitler “sold” his Eugenics movement by using the USA’s as an example.  “We need to keep up with the USA” is almost a direct quote.  Not everyone (till he got absolute power) shared his dislike of Jews, but the paranoia of being “Genetically infected” with a whole crazy quilt of foreigners and defectives helped the pill go down.

  • Tuna Ghost

    Who exactly in the environmental movement has co-opted the ideology of the eugenics movement?  Can you back that up with…well, anything?

  • Tuna Ghost

    Sterilization is still practiced in some states in the US, not sure which ones exactly but I know that Texas is one of them.  I’ve met a woman there who was chemically sterilized, it was done with implants under the skin of her forearm that slowly dissolve over the course of five years, after which the effects would wear off.  If I recall correctly, she had 7 or so children and no job and an arrest record that would startle many.  I’m not quite sure whether or not I’m against temporary sterilization in theory, but obviously the choice of who is in charge of such a program is fraught with problems, perhaps so much that it could never be implemented ethically.

    • SF2K01

      At least temporary sterilization can be reversed. I’m not sure how you could ever truly compensate someone who has been permanently sterilized. Maybe if some kind of transplant were possible, that would be fair.

  • Tuna Ghost

    Sterilization is still practiced in some states in the US, not sure which ones exactly but I know that Texas is one of them.  I’ve met a woman there who was chemically sterilized, it was done with implants under the skin of her forearm that slowly dissolve over the course of five years, after which the effects would wear off.  If I recall correctly, she had 7 or so children and no job and an arrest record that would startle many.  I’m not quite sure whether or not I’m against temporary sterilization in theory, but obviously the choice of who is in charge of such a program is fraught with problems, perhaps so much that it could never be implemented ethically.

  • Anonymous

    At least temporary sterilization can be reversed. I’m not sure how you could ever truly compensate someone who has been permanently sterilized. Maybe if some kind of transplant were possible, that would be fair.

  • http://profiles.google.com/saintzedofourlostyouth R Z

     Hi tuna, I wasn’t referring to the deep green or radical ecology movement i was specifically referring to
    the frequent discussions i hear on : alternet, commondreams, and in influential books like Gaia theory, where it is frequently posited that the worlds high third world pop’n has caused the world to exceed load capacity. because i am a humanist and a holistic minded person, i see the disparity of resource equity and wealth distribution as the primary cause. I see destructive mining and resource exploitation, industrial pollution and a massive fossil fuel infrastructure as the primary causes of climate change and industrial agriculture as a primary cancer in third world starvation and poverty. I am not attacking the environmental movement by any means, I am simply pointing out what I see as a continued refusal to accept responsibility  of the terrible excesses of western capitalism- and place the blame on people of colour and the third world. I see a consistent blame placed on third world countries for overpop’n but rarely see discussions of an anti-capitalist nature that would critique western energy and resource consumption which proportionally the highest per capita. I see this as extremely problematic.

  • Andrew

    Exactly.  It’s the people of the first world who should be sterilized.

  • WhatsTheBigDeal

    Welcome to Earth, where we are all mentally defective on some level or other. The idea of sterilization is a bit extreme, but here is an alternative which might work out toward the benefit of everyone: every boy gets his tubes tied when he hits puberty, though not before donating several sperm samples to a local bank to be put on ice for *potential* future use. When people decide they are ready to be parents, they apply for a license by taking a test. Also, their income is looked at, as well as their criminal background and any history of addiction or mental illness. Just because you don’t pass the test the first time does not necessarily mean you won’t pass it again at some point in the future. This would ensure a fair and balanced approach to population control, as well as guaranteeing that kids would be raised in stable homes with parents who could afford them and invest the appropriate amount of time/effort/energy into their future, which is ultimately the future of our species. This would also solve our currently-unacceptable level of consumption of natural resources, which would in turn have a positive impact on the environment, etc. Population control should be the number-one thing that every politician is talking about but they won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole because they believe that reproduction is a god-given “right”. To which I say: “Just because you can reproduce does not mean you should…be allowed to.”

    • ArgosyJones

      Yes.  A totalitarian state is the way to go.  Keep on rockin’.

    • Kungfumaster

      Control is the issue here.  We don’t need more control and regulation.  Plus who sets the standard on parenting?  

      • WhatsTheBigDeal

        “who sets the standard on parenting” It should not be that difficult. Just like with adoption, if you are a sixteen year-old kid with no job, you will not be allowed to adopt. They would say: “Come back when you are older and wiser and um, you know, can actually afford this child.” There are so many young people today whose lives are ruined because they were foolish and did not practice safe sex and/or did not use birth control and they wind up with more responsibility than they can handle. The parents resent the kids for having “stolen” their lives and the kids resent having parents who blame them for things which they have no control over.

        But it’s not just teenagers: tell me you don’t know any twenty- or even thirty-somethings you have kids, yet who have absolutely no business having them whatsoever. Everyone knows someone like that and you can’t help but feel for the kid(s) who are stuck in such shitty situations. Your heart goes out to them but what can you do? The fact is, when you choose to have a child, that child needs to be your number-one priority in life. Anything less than that makes you a bad parent. Applying for a parental licenses means that you are willing to take on this responsibility; that you acknowledge all of the time/effort/energy (not to mention: all of the blood/sweat/tears) that will be required in order to give this kid every opportunity that s/he deserves. 

        People can call it totalitarian if they want, but that does not mean that it would not work. Would it be ideal and wonderful to live in a world where people did this automatically without having to be told? DUH. But we don’t live in that world and difficult times call for difficult solutions. Parental licensing would solve overpopulation, which would then solve over-consumption of natural resources, which would then have a profoundly positive effect on the environment. This is a win-win-win situation.

  • WhatsTheBigDeal

    Welcome to Earth, where we are all mentally defective on some level or other. The idea of sterilization is a bit extreme, but here is an alternative which might work out toward the benefit of everyone: every boy gets his tubes tied when he hits puberty, though not before donating several sperm samples to a local bank to be put on ice for *potential* future use. When people decide they are ready to be parents, they apply for a license by taking a test. Also, their income is looked at, as well as their criminal background and any history of addiction or mental illness. Just because you don’t pass the test the first time does not necessarily mean you won’t pass it again at some point in the future. This would ensure a fair and balanced approach to population control, as well as guaranteeing that kids would be raised in stable homes with parents who could afford them and invest the appropriate amount of time/effort/energy into their future, which is ultimately the future of our species. This would also solve our currently-unacceptable level of consumption of natural resources, which would in turn have a positive impact on the environment, etc. Population control should be the number-one thing that every politician is talking about but they won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole because they believe that reproduction is a god-given “right”. To which I say: “Just because you can reproduce does not mean you should…be allowed to.”

  • Guest

    “Sterilization was seen as a way to limit the public cost of welfare” or if you want to tell the Truth, it was seen as a way to redirect public funds into the hands of Corporations and Special Interest Groups.

    Classic case of “Blame The Victim”.

  • Guest

    “Sterilization was seen as a way to limit the public cost of welfare” or if you want to tell the Truth, it was seen as a way to redirect public funds into the hands of Corporations and Special Interest Groups.

    Classic case of “Blame The Victim”.

  • Guest

    Real Humans take care of our own, its instinctual … that’s just what we do!

  • Guest

    Real Humans take care of our own, its instinctual … that’s just what we do!

  • Shisho

    Sterilization isn’t the only way to go about it. It just happens to be the most effortless and probably cheapest way to go about it. Maybe we wouldn’t have the mentally handicap or poor or uneducated if the people in power would stop allowing GMO’s, make a move toward cleaner energy sources like never before, stop increasing taxes on the already struggling, allowing wallstreet’s elite, bankers, and extremely rich people to make the laws and get away with tax evation, and TRULY improve the education in America. The list of bullshit goes on and on and on. . .

  • Shisho

    Sterilization isn’t the only way to go about it. It just happens to be the most effortless and probably cheapest way to go about it. Maybe we wouldn’t have the mentally handicap or poor or uneducated if the people in power would stop allowing GMO’s, make a move toward cleaner energy sources like never before, stop increasing taxes on the already struggling, allowing wallstreet’s elite, bankers, and extremely rich people to make the laws and get away with tax evation, and TRULY improve the education in America. The list of bullshit goes on and on and on. . .

  • ArgosyJones

    Yes.  A totalitarian state is the way to go.  Keep on rockin’.

  • Kungfumaster

    Control is the issue here.  We don’t need more control and regulation.  Plus who sets the standard on parenting?  

  • WhatsTheBigDeal

    “who sets the standard on parenting” It should not be that difficult. Just like with adoption, if you are a sixteen year-old kid with no job, you will not be allowed to adopt. They would say: “Come back when you are older and wiser and um, you know, can actually afford this child.” There are so many young people today whose lives are ruined because they were foolish and did not practice safe sex and/or did not use birth control and they wind up with more responsibility than they can handle. The parents resent the kids for having “stolen” their lives and the kids resent having parents who blame them for things which they have no control over.

    But it’s not just teenagers: tell me you don’t know any twenty- or even thirty-somethings you have kids, yet who have absolutely no business having them whatsoever. Everyone knows someone like that and you can’t help but feel for the kid(s) who are stuck in such shitty situations. Your heart goes out to them but what can you do? The fact is, when you choose to have a child, that child needs to be your number-one priority in life. Anything less than that makes you a bad parent. Applying for a parental licenses means that you are willing to take on this responsibility; that you acknowledge all of the time/effort/energy (not to mention: all of the blood/sweat/tears) that will be required in order to give this kid every opportunity that s/he deserves. 

    People can call it totalitarian if they want, but that does not mean that it would not work. Would it be ideal and wonderful to live in a world where people did this automatically without having to be told? DUH. But we don’t live in that world and difficult times call for difficult solutions. Parental licensing would solve overpopulation, which would then solve over-consumption of natural resources, which would then have a profoundly positive effect on the environment. This is a win-win-win situation.

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