In 1968, Elaine Riddick was sterilized against her will after a c-section to deliver her first and only child. She was just fourteen years old. Now she's fighting to receive compensation as a victim of North Carolina's Eugenics Board, which sterilized thousands of women, disproportionately black, on such grounds as "feeblemindedness."
Riddick's story — told by the AP — is heartbreaking. She was raised in an abusive home in a dangerous neighborhood, and was raped at the age of thirteen. She became pregnant, and the Board evaluated her for sterilization. Despite reports that she did well in school and would "perform more adequately in an improved environment," she was judged "feebleminded." The final doctor's report on her case is chilling:
Because of Elaine's inability to control herself, and her promiscuity — there are community reports of her 'running around' and out late at night unchaperoned, the physician has advised sterilization. This will at least prevent additional children from being born to this girl who cannot care for herself, and can never function in any way as a parent.
The state of North Carolina apparently judged rape as evidence of promiscuity, and promiscuity as a reason for sterilization — but as Riddick says above, their underlying reason may have been racism. By 1968, 64% of the people recommended for sterilization by the Board were black women and girls. Riddick filed a lawsuit against the Board in 1974 — it was ultimately unsuccessful. But now, a task force has been created to deliver appropriate reparations to Riddick and other sterilization victims. This month, it recommended that North Carolina turn over "lump sum financial damages." Its report said,
For many citizens, it may be hard to justify spending millions when the state is cutting back on other essential services. But the fact is, there never will be a good time to redress these wrongs and the victims have already waited too long.
The task force will deliver a final report in February — hopefully then Riddick will receive the apology and compensation that are painfully overdue.
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