The state of North Carolina is currently considering proposals of paying compensation to people who were sterilized as part of the state’s controversial eugenics program. The North Carolina Eugenics Board sterilized thousands of people, many against their will, along with 32 other American states.
Almost 2,000 still living after state mandated sterilizations
A little-known fact, the kind that isn’t often brought up in history courses, is that various states in the U.S. had eugenics programs for much of the 20th century. Eugenics, simply put, is a philosophy promoting “genetic superiority” by “weeding out” people deemed “unfit,” whatever the criteria might be. It is often racially motivated as many eugenicists were white, such as Sir Francis Galton, father of eugenics as a field of study, and Adolf Hitler. One of the components of state-mandated eugenics is forced sterilization, or surgically removing a person’s ability to procreate if they are deemed unfit. Women were subjected to hysterectomies, and men would either undergo a vasectomy or in some cases, castration, according to Wikipedia. The state of North Carolina, according to Reuters, might be the first state to offer compensation to up to 2,000 living people who were sterilized by North Carolina.
Dark chapter in history
Eugenics programs existed in the United States in some form since 1907, when Indiana passed the first state-mandated eugenics program, until 1981, when the last forced sterilization was carried out in Oregon. More than 60,000 people were sterilized nationwide, 20,000 of which occurred in California, according to NPR. The peak in North Carolina’s eugenic sterilization program was from 1946 and 1968, and 85 percent of the people sterilized were women, many of them girls as young as 9 years of age. According to ABC, the procedure was referred to as a “Mississippi appendectomy.” Doctors would inform the girl or her parents that she needed an appendectomy. The patient’s Fallopian tubes would be tied instead, which would not produce detectable side effects like falling hormone levels. About 7,600 sterilizations were carried out in North Carolina. Anyone described as “feeble minded,” the mentally ill, or found to be sexually promiscuous could have been scheduled for sterilization. White women could also be subject to sterilization if found fraternizing with people of different races.
Panel recommends compensation
According to CNN, North Carolina governor Bev Perdue commissioned a study on the state’s eugenics program in 2003, when the law creating the North Carolina Eugenics Board was repealed. The program ran from 1929 until 1976, when the last sterilization was carried out in North Carolina. In 2008, according to NPR, a study suggested that up to $20,000 be offered to each living victim of the sterilization program, and there are thought to be 1,500 to 2,000 people who were sterilized by North Carolina still alive. Recently, the Eugenics Task Force studying the program issued preliminary recommendations to Gov. Perdue that some sort of compensation be offered. Proposals include $20,000 to $50,000 in financial compensation and free health care from the state for victims, according to NPR. According to The Charlotte Post, the panel also recommends a possible traveling exhibit on the sterilization program.
Wikipedia on Eugenics in the United States: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics_in_the_United_States
Charlotte Post: http://www.thecharlottepost.com/index.php?src=news&srctype=detail&category=News&refno=3843
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