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Against Their Will: Special Series on the History of Forced Sterilization in North Carolina

April 21, 2010

Via FWD/Forward, I learned about this series from the Winston-Salem Journal on forced sterilization in North Carolina. A snippet:

The Winston-Salem Journal obtained and examined thousands of these documents. It found that:

  • More than 2,000 people ages 18 and younger were sterilized in many questionable cases, including a 10-year-old who was castrated. Children were sterilized over the objections of their parents, and the consent process was often a sham.

  • The program had been racially balanced in the early years, but by the late 1960s more than 60 percent of those sterilized were black, and 99 percent were female.
  • Doctors performed sterilizations without authorization and the eugenics board backdated approval. Forsyth County engaged in an illegal sterilization campaign beyond the state program.
  • Major eugenics research at Wake Forest University was paid for by a patron whose long history of ties to science had a racial agenda that included a visit to a 1935 Nazi eugenics conference and extensive efforts to overturn key civil-rights legislation.

North Carolina’s eugenics law, passed in 1929 and rewritten in 1933, allowed sterilizations for three reasons — epilepsy, sickness and feeblemindedness. But the board almost routinely violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the law by passing judgment on many other things, from promiscuity to homosexuality.

Read more from the five-part series. I may need to read it with a stiff drink in hand.

Added: Ugh, as though “epilepsy, sickness and feeblemindedness” are sufficient reasons to systematically forcibly sterilize people in the first place. Had a “wait, did that really say that?” moment thinking about this story this morning.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2010 1:13 pm

    Forced sterilization is not in the distant past, if you are developmentally disabled. When I used to work in group homes, I knew a woman my own age whose mother took them to the hospital for “an appendectomy” when they were really having her tubes tied.

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