Black Women’s Reproductive Rights

April 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

This was an eye-opening read for me.  I had read about some of these issues before, but I had never seen them all presented in one argument about the obstacles black women face when it comes to reproductive rights and parenting.  This reminded me of an article I read last year about women who were part of North Carolina’s eugenics program who had been forcibly sterilized, often without their knowledge.  I’m posting the link to the follow-up article I read that may be of interest.  This article discusses how many women were affected by forced sterilization in just one state in the US.  Since many women in the US have been affected by this practice, it is important to raise awareness about the issue.  The rationale behind this practice is inhumane and illogical.  Women were not informed of the repercussions of their procedures.  Also, the idea behind eugenics completely disregarded a woman’s bodily integrity.  Furthermore, forced sterlization also discounted the incidences of rape and incest that may result in a young woman becoming pregnant, and thus, she was deemed eligible for forced sterilization without considering her personal circumstances.

I also did not make the connection to control of black women’s reproduction and slavery.  The argument makes logical sense to me.  Once white men could no longer own slaves, black women’s child bearing no longer equated to profit gain for the white man.  Therefore, they tried to limit the reproduction of black persons.  In the 1980s, President Reagan coined the idea of the welfare queen who was receiving benefits and continued to have children despite not being able to afford them.  The woman he referred to in his story did not exist, however, the stereotype remains.  Newt Gingrich even attempted to make a same argument just this year.  He spoke of a similar portrait of welfare queens, even though he was part of the welfare reforms in the 1990s that did not allow families already enrolled in benefits programs to receive more benefits with additional children.  These continuations of old stereotypes persist continue to affect black women’s reproductive rights.


§ 2 Responses to Black Women’s Reproductive Rights

  • I was also shocked at the forced sterilization. After reading the article you posted I was excited that at least one state is going to compensate those affected. However, one section did confuse me a little: “Impoverished or uneducated African Americans were victimized by many eugenics programs, especially in the South. But the task force found that, although many victims of the North Carolina program were African Americans, the number of Caucasians who were sterilized was even higher.” If impoverished African Americans were targeted, then why was there a higher number of Caucasians sterilized? How did the task force go about finding out this information? I was also concerned that perhaps North Carolina was more inclined to pay the victims, only because so many of them were white. Do you think race had anything to do with this decision?

    • This seems like a great follow up question although I do not personally know the answer. It would be interesting to investigate the relationship between the compensation for government abuses and whether certain groups have these abuses redressed more often than others.

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