Eugenics caused thousands to be childless

I just finished reading an article in Essence magazine about eugenics. Have you heard of this? Between 1929 and 1974, it was legal in 32 U.S. states to force women to be sterilized against their will. Thousands of sterilizations took place in the name of preventing people who were considered inferior from procreating. Many were poor or disabled in some way. Many were black. Many were in their teens and sterilized without their consent. Their families were sometimes told they would lose their welfare benefits if they didn’t do it. Can you imagine having this done to you, prohibiting you from ever having children? I’m shocked that it was still legal when I was a young adult.

In other countries, many more people have been sterilized, including hundreds of thousands in Nazi Germany and Japan, and it still happens in some places.

This is done with animals all the time. It’s called “selective breeding.” People prevent the weaker animals from procreating to create a superior line of offspring. But is this right for people? Who has the right to decide who gets to breed?

Among those people who don’t want children, I often read about women asking to be sterilized by having their tubes tied. If that’s their choice, that’s a different thing. Just as we can choose to use birth control or to marry a man who has had a vasectomy, it’s our decision to make. But nobody should make it for us, especially in such an irrevocable way. We might be able to find a new partner, but we can’t get a new body.

What do you think about this?

For more information on eugenics, go to or this shocking story in the Charlotte Observer about a eugenics victim who was sterilized in 1971.