Poster of the Week – Stop Forced Sterilization

Updated: Nov 11, 2021


This week, California passed legislation to pay reparations to surviving victims of forced sterilization by this state. Forced sterilizations are based in eugenics, the belief that the human population could be improved if certain people, deemed “inferior” or “feebleminded” could not reproduce. Racism, Eurocentrism, and misogyny shaped the eugenics movement, and forced sterilizations primarily targeted women of color and the disabled. Whenever we exhibit a poster about forced sterilization, someone always says, “But it’s not done any more.” Then a few years later, an article appears and gives another contemporary example. Here’s a really short timeline, focusing on the United States, but it gives a small insight into the horrors and longevity of this practice which is still happening in parts of the world. Maybe in this country as well. Very brief history of forced sterilizations: 1895: The first eugenics law in the United States was passed in Connecticut. It was a law against certain kinds of marriages. 1907: Indiana passed the world’s first sterilization law in 1907. 31 states followed suit. 1909: California is the 2nd state to pass eugenics-based sterilization laws. Women of Mexican descent were targeted by the eugenics movement. 1924: Asian Exclusion Act and National Origins Act. This U.S. Immigration Law was inspired by eugenicists, "to preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity.” It prevented immigration from Asia and set quotas on immigrants from Eastern Europe and for non-Western countries. Quotas on Jewish immigration resulted in many applications during WWII being rejected. 1927: U.S. Supreme Court decided, by a vote of 8 to 1, to uphold a state's right to forcibly sterilize a person considered unfit to procreate. This led to approximately 70,000 forced sterilizations during the 20th century. 1933: Nazi sterilization law was modeled on laws passed in California and Indiana. Under this law, the Nazis sterilized approximately 400,000 children and adults, mostly Jews and other “undesirables,” labeled “defective.” 1930s-40s: State-sanctioned sterilizations reached their peak in the U.S., but rose in some states during the 1950s and 1960s. 1961: Famed civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, was given an unnecessary and nonconsensual hysterectomy; she claimed that somewhere around two-thirds of all Black women in Hinds County, Mississippi had had the procedure, colloquially known as a “Mississippi appendectomy.” 1969-1973: In Los Angeles, Mexican and Chicana women were disproportionately targeted by involuntary sterilizations. A number of these women would go on to join a class action lawsuit, Madrigal v. Quilligan. 1981: 33 states had eugenics boards with the power to order sterilizations. These boards targeted disabled people disproportionately, a practice upheld by the Supreme Court in 1927. Oregon’s board approved its final sterilization. 2006-2010: At least 148 women were sterilized in California prisons. 2017: Tennessee Judge Sam Benningfield offered defendants 30 fewer days in jail in exchange for agreeing to be sterilized. Benningfield was formally reprimanded for this. He remains a judge and his jurisdiction includes the juvenile courts. 2020: The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General received a formal complaint alleging that unnecessary hysterectomies were being performed on immigrants in custody at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Irwin County Detention center in Georgia. Poster Text: En Puerto Rico, 1/3 de las mujeres menores de 35 anos-esterilizadas. En los E.U. 20% de las mujeres negras casadas-esterilizadas. En India, la ley manda que se esterilizen hombres y mujeres. El problema no es que hay demasiada gente; seres humanos son nuestro recurso mas preciado. Sin Embargo, billiones de dolares de los EU se gastan para el control de la populacion, al mismo tiempo que se disminuyen los fondos para comida, atencion medica y guarderias infantiles. El imperialismo de los EU es el problema: saquea los terrenos; destruye los recursos de la tierra; roba y destruye las vidas de la gente para sus intereses lucrativos. Resistencia! In Puerto Rico, 1/3 of the women of child-bearing age--sterilized. In the U.S., 20% of Black married women-sterilized. In India, men and women sterilized by law. Too many people is not the problem; people are our most precious resource. Yet billions of U.S. dollars are spent on population control while funds are cut for food, health care and child care. U.S. Imperialism is the problem. It steals the land; tears resources from the earth; robs and destroys the lives of the people for profit. Resist!!! Order from People's Press, P.O. 4013G, S.F., Calif., 94110

Sources: The Supreme Court Ruling That Led To 70,000 Forced Sterilizations ICE is accused of sterilizing detainees. That echoes the U.S.’s long history of forced sterilization. Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs In the United States California to compensate people forcibly sterilized under eugenics Forced sterilization policies in the US targeted minorities and those with disabilities – and lasted into the 21st century Sterilization of Latinas

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