Victims of America’s Eugenic History Tell Their Stories

ChelseaDisabled2 Comments

Unfortunately, it’s not a very distant history.

Many people forget, or don’t even know that the Nazi Holocaust began with the forced sterilization of so-called “undesirables,” namely, the physically and mentally handicapped. What even more people don’t know is that before Hitler, the United States lead the world in the forced sterilization of these “unfit” human beings and was likely a major Nazi influence.

Most states ended their state-enforced sterilization in the 1940s, but North Carolina didn’t pick it up til sometime after the 40s, and there it peaked during the 1950s and 1960s, before ending in the ’70s. Because it was so late to the game, several of these eugenic victims are still alive today in NC and they have recently been asked to share their stories with a governor’s task force and to suggest ways of compensation.

Former Gov. Mike Easley apologized to the 7,600 victims in 2002, but none of them have been compensated in any way.

“I hope the victims feel free to share their stories and thoughts on what the state can do to compensate them for the injustice that was done to them,” task force member Phoebe Zerwick said.

“I think it’s important for us not to decide on a package or a figure on behalf of a group of people,” said Zerwick, a former reporter and editor at the Winston-Salem Journal and now a lecturer at Wake Forest University.

After listening to the victims, the task force will submit a report to state legislators, who will then decide whether and how to compensate them.

For more than four decades the Eugenics Board of North Carolina had the legal power to sterilize people it deemed unfit to be parents: the poor, undereducated, epileptic, mentally unstable, etc… It is nice to know that we are not in the practice of forced sterilization anymore in this country and I’d like to say that means our attitude towards the genetically or socially “inferior” has changed as well. But with the majority of children with Down syndrome aborted and pro-choice heavy hitters lamenting that not enough poor babies are being killed in the womb (all victims who will never get to share their stories or seek justice here on earth), I’m not so sure.

Although, I must say, we have made many good advancements in recent decades helping people with disabilities to become more active and involved in our communities and work-forces.

2 Comments on “Victims of America’s Eugenic History Tell Their Stories”

  1. Thank you, as always, for an informative and valuable post. I had no idea that North Carolina had had the power to sterilize people it deemed unfit to be parents – another reminder NEVER to take for granted that a ‘civilized’ society will necessarily incorporate uncivilized values in its legislation. We must be on our guard to champion the rights of those who cannot always speak for themselves.

  2. Just surfed in…

    I just today read an interesting review of a book which is titled Unnatural Selection. It’s by a woman prochoicer who laments that worldwide many more girls are aborted than boys, and the societal instability it produces.

    The review’s closing paragraph:

    Despite the author’s intentions, “Unnatural Selection” might be one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion. It is aimed, like a heat-seeking missile, against the entire intellectual framework of “choice.” For if “choice” is the moral imperative guiding abortion, then there is no way to take a stand against “gendercide.” Aborting a baby because she is a girl is no different from aborting a baby because she has Down syndrome or because the mother’s “mental health” requires it. Choice is choice. One Indian abortionist tells Ms. Hvistendahl: “I have patients who come and say ‘I want to abort because if this baby is born it will be a Gemini, but I want a Libra.’ ”

    This is where choice leads. This is where choice has already led. Ms. Hvistendahl may wish the matter otherwise, but there are only two alternatives: Restrict abortion or accept the slaughter of millions of baby girls and the calamities that are likely to come with it.

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