Opinion | Sexuality

When the State Took Away My Life: North Carolina Grapples with Sterilization Practice

It all began just a mile down the road from my house.

The small, rural Virginia county where I live is home to an infamous court case that resulted in "one of the most chilling statements" ever issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. That case, Buck vs. Bell, unleashed decades of forced sterilization on those deemed "unfit" across the United States.

Last week a taskforce appointed by the State of North Carolina recommended reparation payments of $50,000 to each surviving victim of the state's involuntary sterilization program. The program ended in the 1970s, but incredibly, the laws remained on the books until 2003.

According to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation website, "Between 1929 and 1974, an estimated 7,600 people were sterilized by choice, force or coercion under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board program." Those targeted for sterilization in hopes of ridding the population of "inferior" genes included people who were sick, epileptic, "feeble-minded," or otherwise disabled. At least 33 states had involuntary sterilization ...

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