Friday, June 17, 2011

State-Sponsored Eugenics in America

In our national conversations about the history of racism in the United States, I have rarely heard the Eugenics movement mentioned, much less properly condemned.

The machinations of eugenicists have affected real people in real ways, not just in far away places, but here in our own country. The frightening part is the extent to which the eugenics movement has influenced both our national conscience and public policy.

Maybe the following story will get us thinking and talking a bit more.

From BBC News:
Sterilisation: North Carolina grapples with legacy

More than 60,000 Americans were sterilised, many against their will, as part of a eugenics movement that finished in 1979, aimed at keeping the poor and mentally ill from having children. Now, decades on, one state is considering compensation.

In 1968, Elaine Riddick was raped by a neighbour who threatened to kill her if she told what happened.

She was 13, the daughter of violent and abusive parents in the desperately poor country town of Winfall, in the US state of North Carolina.

While she was in hospital giving birth, the state violated her a second time, she says.

A social worker who had deemed her "feeble-minded" petitioned the state Eugenics Board to have her sterilised.

Officials coerced her illiterate grandmother into signing an "x" on an authorisation form. After performing a Caesarean section, doctors sterilised her "just like cutting a hog", she says.

Read the rest at BBCNews 

Interestingly, sterilization of the "feeble minded", minorities, and other populations was one of the central goals of the American Birth Control League founded by Margaret Sanger.  Over the years that organization has remade its image to keep up with changing times.  Since the early 1940's, when eugenics began to lose its political popularity, that organization that began as the American Birth Control League has gone by the slightly friendlier name of Planned Parenthood.

Tip of the Schoolmarm Ruler to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

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