After being raped by her neighbor when she was just 13, Elaine Riddick was forced to undergo another kind of trauma: She was forcibly sterilized by the state of North Carolina after giving birth. 

The year was 1967, and back then, the practice of sterilizing women the state found “undesirable” was commonplace.  Riddick, like thousands of others, was labeled “feebleminded” and “promiscuous,” and the state decided she shouldn’t be allowed to have more children.

This horrific practice, beginning in the 1920s, was based on the premise of eugenics, which is a scientific theory that believes that poverty, promiscuity, and negative behaviors like alcoholism are inherited traits. Because of this, 31 states adopted a forced sterilization program during the early 20th Century, and by 1960s, tens of thousands of Americans were involuntarily sterilized.

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North Carolina’s eugenics program lasted from 1929 to 1974 (it was disbanded in 1977), and was initially adopted as a way to control welfare spending on poor Whites. However, as the program progressed, Black women became targets. During North Carolina’s eugenics program, 7,600 people were forcibly sterilized, 85 percent of them female and 40 percent of them non-white.

Many, like Riddick, didn’t know they were sterilized until they wanted to have more children later in life.

NBC’s Rock Center reports:

It wouldn’t be until Riddick was 19, married and wanting more children, that she’d learn she was incapable of having any more babies. A doctor in New York where she was living at the time told her that she’d been sterilized. 

“Butchered.  The doctor used that word…  I didn’t understand what she meant when she said I had been butchered,” Riddick said.

For the past eight years, North Carolina has been trying to right its horrible wrongs. Lawmakers have been working to compensate victims of the state’s eugenics program, but so far, only 48 victims have been matched to their records.

This summer, the state held hearings trying to encourage more victims to come forward. Bolstered by the efforts of state politicians like State Representative Larry Womble, the victims of North Carolina’s horrible sterilization are finally speaking out.

Despite the daunting task of finding and compensating all 7,600 victims, as Representative Womble pointed out, if the government is “powerful enough to perpetrate this on this society, they ought to be responsible, step up to the plate and compensate.”

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  • priceless34

    With this case aside, I wonder if the issues in our communities would be an different if the baby mamas and welfare queens were forced to stop producing if they could not provide stable care and housing for their offspring?

    Racism still exist in our society but when we’re more preoccuppied with the Kim Kardashian, Gucci belts, collecting checks, killing each other, and collect dat check they will continue to manipulate and divide us.

  • Trini

    I cant lie, Ive always felt that certain people should never be allowed to reproduce. EVER! I mean, lets be honest, some gene pools should be left to just dry up. I wont even bother naming names….aint got that kinda time. LOL!

    But I never thought the govt would actually do it! This ish is crazy! Like scary, creepy sci-fi/horror flick crazy!

    • SAA

      I’m with you there. I’m a major proponent of people being sterilized however their consent should be given. Not everyone is fit to have children and just because you have functioning reproductive organs, that doesn’t mean you should excercise their intended use. I live in Baltimore and just walking around sometimes I can count off the top of my head how many women (and men) I see who are unfit parents.

      This particular story is sad but at the same time the issue is the fact that this was done without her consent and was a government program. Its strange to me how people do not mind government programs who fund Planned Parenthood and other birth control related programs that prevent conception yet what they did was essentially just another form of birth control. Race does play a part in this but not even a major part as 40% of the victims were African American, they mostly targeted poor individuals who soceity as a whole see as “undesirable”.

      All in all I agree that some people should definitely not ever have children. There should be some test you have to pass in order to do so and psychiatric evaluations should be required!!!

    • Trini

      “All in all I agree that some people should definitely not ever have children. There should be some test you have to pass in order to do so and psychiatric evaluations should be required.”

      LOL! No joke!

      Prime example is the moms we all see at Walmart, Target etc with no less than 4 or 5 poor lil screaming, unkempt, snot-nosed babies scattered around her while she yaps on a cell and occasionally yells expletives at her kids over heaven only knows what.

      Yeah, Im certainly all for administering a test or psych eval of some kind in attempt to prevent the vast prevalence of exactly that!

    • Alexandra

      That’s harsh, but I agree with you both @ Trini and SAA.
      This secret was also exposed earlier this year and the state ‘apologized’ and said they would pay the victims.

  • Ashley

    There are MANY people out there who need sterilized…..that have PROVEN that they don’t need or deserve children, but its not been done to them. They just take the kids for a few days to a week, then give them back. This is SO sad……my thoughts and prayers to the victims. To those who have DONE this to them, if you are going to play “God”, do it right and fix the REAL problem….people popping out children who can’t even afford to take care of them or who have harmed children in some way. There is NO greater feeling in the world than welcoming your own child into the world….and to the people you have taken that from who don’t fit the REAL problem criteria…..thoughts and prayers to you.

  • andrea

    I think this is so wrong to take some one’s rights away like that,How about we decide to take away peoples right who treat there kids wrong,the young women who throw there babies in garbage cans,and beat on there kids and don’t take care of them there the ones who need there rights to have children taken away not people who want kids and deserve them.

    They need to do something to stop all of this stupid stuff going on this is the us,home of the free land of the brave and people here have rights,this was so unfair to take someones rights away,this is why we have laws I hope who ever did this will get punished and has to pay the families lots of money.American doctor screws up,it’s only fair for the american families to sue,IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!