North Carolina Sterilized Thousands of Women without Their Consent, and Now They Want to Pay Them

5 years ago

They were sterilized--all 7600 of them--by the state of North Carolina. Mostly they were women and girls, and many were black.

Like Elaine Riddick, who was raped and impregnated by a neighbor when she was 13, who was sterilized moments after she gave birth, they did not give their consent. A state eugenics board recommended that because Riddick was “feebleminded” and “promiscuous,” a poor student, she be sterilized. When she married at 19 and couldn’t get pregnant, that’s when a doctor revealed what had been done to her. "They cut me open like I was a hog,…” Elaine Riddick recalled in an interview early this week with NBC News.

Oh. And the rapist was never prosecuted.

Imagine being Elaine Riddick. The shock and pain and loss of understanding that you were deemed so subhuman, so deficient, that you were not fit to have a child. Ever. And that five strangers, a government panel, had determined that. I doubt I would be capable of comprehending that. Of wrapping my mind around that. Of accepting that.

Could you?

Imagine then suing to have your case heard before the United States Supreme Court, and the court rejecting it.

Now some of the survivors are telling their stories. North Carolina is trying to figure out a way to make reparations for its shameful past, for the victims’ suffering. But that appears to be an elusive task.

How much is enough, really, to account for a woman being deprived of her fertility? Is $20,000 enough? $100,000? A million?

Would any amount be enough for you?

It occurs to me these are questions better suited to a reality TV show.

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue addressed the impossibility of compensation, this stab to address the unfathomable, when she said in an interview:

From my perspective, and as a woman, and as the governor of this state, this is not about the money. There isn’t enough money in the world to pay these people for what had been done to them….

Credit Image: Pesky Library on Flickr

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