A North Carolina reproductive health program that once received wide elite support is under fire:

Over all, about 70 percent of the North Carolina operations took place after 1945, and many of them were on poor young women and racial minorities. [ . . . ]

The program, while not specifically devised to target racial minorities, affected black Americans disproportionately because they were more often poor and uneducated and from large rural families.


The program in question is North Carolina’s forced sterilization initiative, a particularly brutal form of birth control once practiced in 31 states on over 60,000 victims. Of course, today the operation frequently performed on the poor and uneducated that disproportionately affects racial minorities is abortion.

There are a thousand disanalogies between forced sterilization and abortion, but that did not prevent a previous generation of well-intentioned people from seeing them as two threads in a seamless agenda of reproductive health.

Articles by Matthew Schmitz

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