Wednesday, January 27, 2016
INVOLUNTARY STERILIZATION: THE SOUTH'S ROLE UNTIL 1970's
In the Deep South, eugenicists recognized the political and social influence of southern club women in their communities. Eugenicists used the women's association to help implement programs across the region. The women played an important part in rallying for eugenic legal reform. Federated women's club in every state of the Deep South between 1915 and 1920 had a critical role in segregated public eugenic institutions by sex. Lobbying to institute eugenic institution for the mentally retarded to be segregated. This was made successful by the Florida State Federation of Women's Clubs. Their goal was to prevent more "feeble minded" individuals by separating mentally retarded men and women. In the 1970's several physicians were discovered by several activists and women's rights groups performing coerced sterilizations. The sterilizations were performed only specific ethnic groups. They were poor, non white or mentally retarded women. This was not motivated by the eugenics movement, but there are similarities. No abuses were against white or middle-class women. All the sterilizations were done without consent. In 1972 U.S. Senate Committee testimony revealed at least 2,000 involuntary sterilizations had been performed without consent or knowledge on poor black women. An investigation proved that all the surgeries were performed in the South. They were performed on black welfare mothers with several children. It was revealed that women were threatened to have their welfare benefits stopped unless they had the sterilization procedure. The sterilization abuse raised older suspicions, especially among the black community because all the funds came from the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. They felt "federal programs were underwriting eugenicists who wanted to impose their views about population quality on minorities and poor women". Although this did not occur in the South, Native American women were also victims. The organization WARN (Women of All Red Nations) publicized that Native American Women were also threatened that they would lose their welfare benefits if they had more children. The Indian Health Service would not deliver their babies unless their agreed to sterilization. Sometimes this pressure of sterilization would happen during the actual labor. The directions were not given in their native language so many Native American Women unknowingly gave consent. An estimate of 3,406 Indian women were sterilized according to General Accounting Office. It was stated by The General Accounting Office, that the Indian Health Service had not followed the necessary regulations that the "informed consent forms did not adhere to the standards set by the United State Department of Health, Education and Welfare.