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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    North Carolina ties tubes, stalls on compensation

    Eugenics is a nice, scientific way of labeling a flawed and arguably racially-charged pseudoscience. Believers in eugenics are of the thought process that many of the problems society faces are the result of genetic flaws that are inherited and passed down through generations. Eugenicists contend that you can weed out unwanted traits like alcoholism, poverty and even promiscuous behaviors by simply not allowing people with these problems to breed. In other words, sterilize them.

    Elaine Riddick is one of the reported 7,600 people to have been sterilized by eugenics practices in North Carolina, which is one of 31 states to have practiced this pseudoscience at one point or another. According to a report from MSNBC, Riddick was raped and impregnated by her neighbor when she was 13 years old. Upon delivering her baby, doctors cut and tied her fallopian tubes at the request of a five-person eugenics board who regarded her as “feebleminded” and “promiscuous.” Riddick, however, was completely unaware of this. She was later told some six years later by a doctor that she had been “butchered” and could not have children. Of the 7,600 people sterilized from 1929 until 1974 by the eugenics program in North Carolina, 85 percent were women and 40 percent were non-white. Even more horrifying, some of those sterilized were 9 years old.

    The program was ended in 1977, but the law stayed on the books until 2003. In the aftermath, the state is coming under intense fire as people demand compensation for those so horribly wronged. Gov. Beverly Perdue has discussed adding this tragedy to a traveling museum exhibit in addition to monetary compensation or health services. However, they’ve been dragging their feet. Perdue contends that this situation is so horrendous that it’s hard to label a dollar amount as just compensation to make up for it. In this regard, she’s correct.

    How exactly do you say, “I’m sorry some lunatics robbed you of your natural right (and instinct) to reproduce. Here’s some cash to make it all go away”? And how do you determine exactly how much money to put on the table? While reported estimates have been between $20,000 and $50,000 as means of compensation, it doesn’t mean either amount is correct of just. Honestly, I don’t know who specifically can put that price tag on these individual tragedies other than, perhaps, the individuals afflicted. Honestly though, what individual wants to put a price on their own reproductive rights, let alone someone else’s?

    Don’t get that confused though, something still needs to be done. You can’t just say, “it’s a tough decision” and stall until the problem is no longer your problem anymore. The reality is only 48 people sterilized have been identified and matched with their medical records to confirm that they were sterilized by the program. That’s a scary number when you consider just how many people are out there who don’t know that this is why they can’t have the family they’re entitled to. Perhaps it’s because they flat out don’t know they’re sterile, don’t want to know why, or worse, they’ve already died and can never receive their just compensation.

    North Carolina is dealing with a ticking clock that is fast approaching midnight. They have their opportunity to finally make things right after endlessly ignoring the glaring and ugly harm they’ve inflicted and it’s vital that they do it now. No more calling the problem difficult and procrastinating. No more task forces and investigations. The information is out there. Reality is staring, if not snarling, in the face of North Carolina’s government. It’s high time this atrocious wrong be righted through any means necessary.

    —Storm Byrd is the Perspectives editor. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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