Kirsten Andersen

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New North Carolina budget includes $10 million in payments to victims of forced sterilization

Kirsten Andersen
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RALEIGH, NC, July 31, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – The newly-passed North Carolina budget includes $10 million earmarked for payments to victims of a forced sterilization program the state conducted between 1929 and 1974.

About 7,600 people were sterilized during North Carolina’s eugenics program – without their consent, or in many cases, even their knowledge.  Sixty percent of those sterilized were African American.  Some of the victims were as young as ten years old.  Those who were sterilized were deemed unfit for parenthood due to factors such as mental or physical disabilities, mental illness, or even promiscuity or unpopularity.

Elaine Riddick, who now lives in Atlanta, was forcibly sterilized at age 14 after she was raped by a neighbor and gave birth to a baby boy.  The state workers who delivered her baby told Riddick’s illiterate grandmother that they would take away her welfare benefits, including food stamps, if she didn’t sign the consent form.  Riddick didn’t find out about it until she was 19.

“I asked the state of North Carolina why they did this to me, and they said that because I was feebleminded that I would not be able to take care of myself—I would not be able to tie my shoes—that I was just incompetent,” Riddick told the makers of Maafa 21, a Life Dynamics documentary.

Riddick has been active in the effort to secure compensation for victims of the eugenics program. 

"I tip my hat to North Carolina,” Riddick said. “Finally they came to their senses and decided to do what's right,” she told NBC News.

But she said that no amount of money could ever replace what the victims had lost.

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"You can't put a price on someone taking your womb or castrating you,” said Riddick.  “It's humiliating."

The amount each victim receives will depend partly on how many victims come forward.  The initial budget calls for a $50,000 one-time payout to up to 200 victims.  However, there are estimated to be 1800 victims of the state eugenics program still living.  So far, only 177 have come forward and been verified, but if over 1,000 eventually step up to receive payouts, the amount each receives may be reduced to $10,000.

Forced sterilizations were common in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century, as new surgical techniques emerged and the eugenics movement, inspired by Darwinism’s idea of ‘survival of the fittest,’ rose to worldwide prominence.

“Eugenical sterilization is a means adopted by organized Society to do for the human race in a humane manner what was done by Nature before modern civilization, human sympathy, and charity intervened in Nature’s plans,” read a 1935 government pamphlet called Eugenical Sterilization in North Carolina.  The pamphlet outlined the conditions under which the state would sterilize a person – including “any mentally diseased, feebleminded or epileptic resident.”

Many states adopted similar eugenics programs prior to World War II, but most abandoned them after the war because the practice was so closely associated with the Nazis.  North Carolina, however, expanded its program and continued sterilizing people well into the 1970s.

A 1950 pamphlet issued by the ‘Human Betterment Society of North Carolina’ said, “You wouldn’t expect a moron to run a train. Or a feebleminded woman to teach school. … Yet each day the feebleminded and the mentally defective are entrusted with the most important and far-reaching job of all … the job of parenthood!”

Margaret Sanger, one of the foremost leaders of the eugenics movement, founded Planned Parenthood to solve the problem of what she called “human waste.” She argued that society was being crippled by continued reproduction by those she considered “unfit” to pass on their genetic heritage. 

“Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems,” Sanger wrote in 1921. “The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”

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