June 04, 2012

North Carolina to compensate sterilization victims

Preemptive Genocide: Only Now Are Reparations Being Made to Eugenics Victims

By Anne MinardWhen North Carolina announced earlier this year that it intends to be the first state to compensate victims of decades-ago sterilization programs, it renewed a nationwide debate over the need to acknowledge and amend the travesties of similar programs in other states. Tens of thousands of women, men and even children were sterilized from the early 1900s through the middle part of the century. Often, the victims were misled about the treatments they were undergoing; sometimes they were pressured or even forced to cooperate. Most had been deemed unfit to reproduce, often because they weren’t white and sometimes because they were ruled mentally inferior. The programs all were justified by eugenics policies meant to improve the gene pool.

Advocates for the thousands of Native women who were victimized by such programs say another motivation lurked behind the horrific abuses. “This was a concerted attack on Indian American women that constituted genocide,” says Andrea Carmen, a former sterilization activist from the Yaqui Nation who now serves as executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council.

The advocates say apologies in recent years by North Carolina and a handful of other states are a start, but the real healing can come only after an apology at the national level. They say that’s what it will take to combat the racism that led to the sterilization programs and is still evident today.

The list of abuses is varied but invariably shocking: Native women going in for C-sections and coming out with tubal ligations; Native girls going in for tonsillitis and coming out with tubal ligations; young Native women being given hysterectomies after being told that they were reversible; Native women being used in Depo-Provera trials without being informed of the risks; Indian Health Service (IHS) workers implanting the controversial Norplant capsules in a patient’s arm, but claiming to lack the training to remove it, even when it caused complications.
Comment:  For more on sterilization, see Vermont to Apologize for Sterilization? and Sotomayor, Empathy, and Sterilization.

Below:  "Carmen (left) has been working on this issue since the 1970s; Asetoyer says that there are many more victims out there."

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