State-Sanctioned Sterilization Programs

From CBS News:

RALEIGH – At 57, Elaine Riddick has a house full of god children, great nieces and nephews, but only one child of her own – a son. When she was 14, Riddick was raped. The day she gave birth, doctors sterilized her on orders from the state of North Carolina.

“They said that I was feeble-minded, they said that I was promiscuous,” Riddick tells CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

Riddick was one of nine children, poor, from a broken home. Her illiterate grandmother signed the sterilization papers with an “x.”

“I’ve always been able to take care of myself – I’ve never been promiscuous,” Riddick says. “So how can people use these things to describe a child that had been abandoned? Or that had been raped by the neighbor and then again, raped by the state of North Carolina.”

What happened to Riddick in North Carolina happened to more than 60,000 people in 32 states, from the 1920’s to the 1970s under state-sanctioned sterilization programs aimed at cutting welfare costs.


  1. No amount of money can replace what was lost. Mrs. Riddick reminds me of a friend and all I kept thinking about when watching the video was, What if this had happened to A. ?

    She lost so much. Her childhood. Her fertility. Her dignity.

  2. So…we can treat people like animals by sterilizing them against their will, but we’ll be damned if we offer them quality sex education in schools and sexual health options through Planned Parenthood.

    It’s like they are trying to deny poor people dignity, opportunity and resp…oh.

  3. This was far more widespread than most people would guess- all throughout North America, and both started much earlier and lasted much longer than one would imagine. It’s horrifying.

    As this brief quote indicates, victims of the sterilization regime were generally branded as promiscuous, mentally ill or a danger to society in order to justify sterilization. However since there was no actual definition for the first two categories (particularly mental illness) it essentially consisted of the ruling body’s determination of who deserved sterilization, and it was almost always the poor. Doctors compiled meticulous records based on sketchy family history and interview to determine inferior bloodlines, and the entire thing was like a disgusting little Nazi experiment.

    In fact, Eugenics became really popular in N. America quite a while before it did in Europe (thanks in part to significant donations given from wealthy patrons to convincing doctors & scientists who impressed upon them the need to cleanse society of inferior persons so that America would eventually consist of only the best and brightest of future generations). Eugenics became such a heralded cause that Hitler was apparently impressed by and jealous of the progress America had made in the field, and used existing American principles to found/further his own plans and research. Pretty shocking.

Comments are closed.