Motivated by eugenics the United States has a long and dirty history with the use of forced or mandatory sterilization in the name of weeding out society’s ills. The United States was also the first country to implement laws motivated by eugenics and initially focused on people with developmental and physical disabilities, but spread to indigenous and black women. After all was said and done, approximately 65,000 women people (correction, I read the link wrong) were sterilized under state by state laws.
Turns out, North Carolina had one of the most aggressive forced sterilizations campaigns in the country and as a result is home to thousands of families that were unable to have children. In an effort to ameliorate this hardship the North Carolina state government is looking at compensation for those who suffered under these racist policies.
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.
It’s not totally clear why support for sterilizations remained strong in North Carolina as it declined in nearly every other state.
The history of eugenics programs isn’t talked about widely and most of the popular justification for eugenics was abandoned after World War II in an attempt to disassociate from the much more aggressive eugenics campaigns of Nazi Germany. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and the repercussions have not only spanned generations but also perpetuate legitimate and exaggerated anxieties around attempts at eradicating entire communities. Anxieties that are rightfully connected to critiques of the prison system or wrongfully manipulated with anti-choice billboard campaigns targeting communities of color.