You would think that living in the twenty-first century, we would have progressed beyond the barbarity of eugenics programs in the U.S. in previous centuries. That assumption would be false.
Eugenics–the systematic implementation of social Darwinian procedures such as sterilization and segregation in order to “purify” the human gene pool–complemented the ideology behind the Nazi Holocaust. Meanwhile in the U.S., medical professionals were sterilizing those deemed genetically “inferior” while legislators and police were enforcing racial segregation. We have now moved forward to a point in which science, cultural consciousness, and law are in agreement that eugenics is destructive and ethically reprehensible.
Nevertheless, a recent investigation into California prisons reveals that some Americans remain behind the times. It has been confirmed that 39 female inmates were illegally sterilized over the last eight years at Folsom Women’s Facility, Central California Women’s Facility, Valley State Prison for Women, and the California Institution for Women. Such women were not given proper consent. The procedure, in effect, was coerced on them. Consequently, the health committee at the California legislature has moved to pass a bill banning all future sterilizations of inmates unless required in a medical emergency.
North Carolina isn’t faring much better. With a sketchy past regarding eugenics programs, the state has yet to compensate its past victims of sterilization despite promises. This past Monday was the deadline for victims to file claims and apply for compensation. The NAACP believes that the state is still doing an insufficient job, requesting that the deadline be extended as only 630 out of 1,800 victims who may still be alive have submitted proper claims and paperwork to the state Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims. Let’s hope this request meets with a favorable response and that our nation can move further forward and “not one step back” as the Moral Monday mantra states. Because in California and North Carolina, we remain more than one step back.