LinkElaine Riddick was 13 years old when she got pregnant after being raped by a neighbor in Winfall, N.C., in 1967. The state ordered that immediately after giving birth, she should be sterilized. Doctors cut and tied off her fallopian tubes. [ ] Riddick’s records reveal that a five-person state eugenics board in Raleigh had approved a recommendation that she be sterilized. The records label Riddick as “feebleminded” and “promiscuous.” They said her schoolwork was poor and that she “does not get along well with others.”
North Carolina was one of 31 states to have a government run eugenics program. By the 1960s, tens of thousands of Americans were sterilized as a result of these programs.
Eugenics was a scientific theory that grew in popularity during the 1920s. Eugenicists believed that poverty, promiscuity and alcoholism were traits that were inherited. To eliminate those society ills and improve society’s gene pool, proponents of the theory argued that those that exhibited the traits should be sterilized. Some of America’s wealthiest citizens of the time were eugenicists including Dr. Clarence Gamble of the Procter and Gamble fortune and James Hanes of the hosiery company. Hanes helped found the Human Betterment League which promoted the cause of eugenicists.
Like a page from the novel 1984, the victims of forced sterilization lived through an Orwellian nightmare. Against their will, they were permanently sterilized. The decision was made by people they never met who believed that they were inferior, and should not be able to breed. Should these victims be compensated by the government? And what attempts, if any, should be made to prevent this from happening again?
Another interesting question: are there instances when people should be forcefully sterilized?