North Carolina’s Eugenic Past

By Claire, Communications Intern

Way back when we started this blog we had a post about the now defunct sterilization program in North Carolina.  A formal apology was issued in 2002, but until now talk of compensation for the victims of the program had been stalled.  Governor Perdue has stated she is determined to fix that problem while she is in office.  She set up the NC Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation under the Department of Administration in order to “provide information and assistance to affected individuals.”  Currently the Governor’s Task Force is assessing the best method for compensation.

North Carolina operated its eugenics board and sterilization program from 1929 to 1974.  Thirty-one other states had eugenics programs during this time as well.  The goal of eugenics committees was to identify “degenerate elements” in American society and prevent them from reproducing and passing their “degenerate genetics” onto the next generation.  They were concerned with actual inheritable traits like epilepsy, and traits they assumed to be inheritable like alcoholism, promiscuity and “feeble-mindedness.”  In North Carolina the population viewed by the board to be degenerate was overwhelmingly female and disproportionately people of color.  One third of the sterilizations were performed on people under the age of 18.  At least 7, 600 people were sterilized in North Carolina; only around 2,000 are still alive.

Eliane Riddick, who we covered in our first eugenics post, is a perfect example of how terrible and misguided the eugenics movement was.  Riddick was raped by a neighbor when she was 13.  She became pregnant and the eugenics committee saw her as a prime candidate for sterilization.  Underage, black, poor, unwed and pregnant; she was everything they thought needed fixing in North Carolina.   Instead of helping Riddick through her traumatic ordeal, they labeled her “promiscuous” and “feeble-minded.”  She was sterilized without her consent or knowledge right after her son was born.  Her rapist was never brought to justice.  Her story is not uncommon for the tens of thousands of people sterilized in the name of public health over the decades.  More information about her and about North Carolina’s shameful history can be found here.

We have to remember that choice is more than about the right to pregnancy prevention and abortion.  For so many people it is just the opposite.  Everyone deserves to make the best decisions for themselves with all the facts given to them in a medically accurate, unbiased way.   Forcing someone to be sterilized is just as bad as forcing them to be pregnant.

The Truth Revealed: North Carolina’s Crisis Pregnancy Centers

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Foundation issued a report on its yearlong undercover investigation of CPCs in North Carolina.

Read the report here.

The Sunday News and Observer article on the report is here.

This report has been getting coverage all over the country, see those articles here.

The Thin Blue Line

Below is The Rachel Maddow Show’s recent coverage of North Carolina’s current conservative, ideologically-driven government fiasco and the awesomeness of Governor Bev Perdue.  She is making clear where she stands about important decisions and about moving North Carolina forward.  That is something to be admired.

I’m not gonna lie, this means a lot to me.  As guest host Melissa Harris-Perry says, I also came of age politically here in North Carolina.  I became a feminist and an advocate for reproductive rights in North Carolina.  I voted for president for the first time in North Carolina.  And beyond that, I am a native daughter of North Carolina.  So it is hard for me to watch my state crumble under this ideologically-based crusade.   But we do what we can.  We support our Governor and our champions in the General Assembly.  We remind them that we need them and their support.  And above all we do not give up hope.   We will vote and work to get our elected officials into office and these politicians who are imposing their ideology on the people of North Carolina out of office in 2012.

This is an interesting video for everyone here to watch.  (Note that it aired the night before the Senate voted to override Governor Perdue’s veto of H.B. 854.)

Gov. Perdue Vetoes Extremist H.B. 854

Raleigh- NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina commends Governor Bev Perdue for her veto of H.B. 854, the so-called “Woman’s Right to Know” act. Without her action, this extremist legislation would have become law, drastically altering reproductive choice and freedom in our state. H.B.854 would have established extreme barriers to abortion care, including a 24-hour waiting period, a mandated ultrasound, and a requirement that physicians read women a script written by anti-choice politicians. It included no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

While proponents claim this bill will give women the necessary time and understanding to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term, it will actually create more barriers to accessing abortion, a legal medical procedure. It wrongly assumes that women make this decision lightly and with little consideration.

Executive Director Carey Pope says, “It is important to understand that women need abortion services for myriad reasons. Limiting those services in the name of women’s wellbeing is dishonest and ultimately harmful to women. Women overwhelmingly make the health decisions for their families, but according to these politicians women cannot be trusted to make their own health decisions. We applaud Governor Perdue for recognizing that this bill is nothing more than an attempt to further erode Roe v. Wade in North Carolina.”

We thank Governor Perdue for her courage and dedication to women’s health and civil liberties in North Carolina. We now look to the General Assembly to recognize the decision-making capabilities of North Carolina’s women by sustaining her veto.