Sterilization Forced on Poor Women

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“Forced sterilization and welfare have been linked for nearly half a century. Mississippi state legislator David H. Glass instituted a bold experiment when he sought legal means to force sterilization upon welfare mothers in 1958. By 1960, his “act to discourage immorality of unmarried females by providing for sterilization of the unwed mothers” passed in the House by a vote of seventy-two to thirty-seven but died in the Senate as the black activist Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) protested and distributed a pamphlet entitled “Genocide in Mississippi.””

“In June 1973, the abuse of two young sisters in Montgomery, Alabama, exposed the decades of stolen African American fertility. A Montgomery Community Action Agency nurse took the girls to the hospital for a federally funded contraceptive shot and obtained the “X” of each illiterate parent on the consent form. But their parents later learned that the girls had been surgically sterilized, and they asked Atlanta’s Southern Poverty Law Center for help. When SPLC filed a class-action lawsuit to end the use of federal funds for involuntary sterilization, its lawyers discovered that 100,000 to 150,000 women had been sterilized using federal funds and that half these women were black.”

“Women were also forced into sterility by governmental welfare programs, upon which unskilled black women workers relied to supplement their meager wages. While a social worker in upstate New York during the 1980s, I learned from old case files that during the 1960s and 1970s, social workers conducted frequent late-night raids on the homes of aid recipients. If a man was discovered, the family’s aid could be cut off unless the woman agreed to sterilization, guaranteeing there would be no additional children for the state to support.”

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

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