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case study - Case Study Sterilization Campaign in North...

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Case Study: Sterilization Campaign in North Carolina Valerie Taylor Environmental Geology 120 – 1 PM Sterilizing people – making them unable to conceive a child- against their will has been around for decades in many cultures. One of the most famous examples of forced sterilization was in Nazi Germany. While he was in power in July of 1933, Hitler created over two hundred sterilization courts that ordered sterilizations for over four hundred thousand people suffering from mental retardation to alcoholism (“Nazi”). Nowadays sterilization is common in Africa. Women who are HIV positive are often sterilized against their will and sometimes even without their knowledge (Brett). Forced sterilization does not have to be a bad thing however. It could protect people with a mental handicap from getting pregnant after a sexual assault, which would then keep them from going through the pregnancy and birth processes that would be so difficult and confusing to them (Woodside). Unfortunately however, many times a forced sterilization
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campaign that is developed to help the mentally disabled turns into a tragic situation of nondisabled people having their ability to have children taken away without their consent. This violation of basic human rights is exactly what happened in North Carolina between 1929 and 1974. In North Carolina, like in many other states and countries at the time, sterilization got started because people thought that all traits were controlled by genetics. They thought that if they kept homosexuals and criminals from reproducing, those traits would vanish altogether. We now know that these traits are not controlled by genes, at least not completely, but at the time people absolutely believed it. This belief is what caused people to jump on the idea of sterilization so quickly, because they thought they could create a “perfect” society (Begos). Forcefully sterilizing people officially began with the passage of a law that allowed such in 1929. However, this law was found unconstitutional because it did not give individuals the right to a hearing, and in 1933 a new law was passed. This new law outlined the creation of the Eugenics Board, which consisted of five members: the State Commissioner of Public Welfare, the Secretary of the State Board of Health, the Chief Medical Officer of the Dorothea Dix Mental Hospital, the Attorney General, and the Chief Medical Officer of an institution for the feeble- minded or insane not located in Raleigh. This last individual changed from time to time and was picked by the other members (Woodside). The years with the greatest number of sterilizations
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