Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Conservatives Not Very Outraged Over Forced Government Sterilization Programs in North Carolina and Other States

Not When It Might Cost Tax Dollars to Compensate Victims

Several months ago Conservatives were angered and outraged that the Federal government would require employers to provide their employees with a choice on family planning.  Somehow allowing women access to family planning services was seen as an attack on religious freedom.  In fact the program was support for religious freedom, the freedom to practice your own religion and the freedom from being forced to observe someone else’s religion.

So one can imagine the Conservative fury over a program like this, a program that actually forced birth control through sterilization on people by government.

On the books from 1929-74, its goal was to keep those deemed to have undesirable traits from having kids. The vast majority marked for sterilization were minorities, poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick, or disabled. Eighty-five percent were female, some as young as 10 years old. 

Wow, pretty ugly stuff, one can imagine the outrage being expressed by Conservatives and their condemnation of this program in a country like North Korea, or China or some other heathen government.  Oh wait, this was not a program in one of those countries, it took place in the United States.

Indiana enacted the country’s first eugenics legislation in 1907. Eventually 32 states followed, and more than 60,000 people underwent forced sterilization. The practice was largely abandoned after World War II, but North Carolina didn’t officially end its program until 1974. In 2003, a five-part series in the Winston-Salem Journal put the state’s shameful past back in the news. Then-Governor Mike Easley, a Democrat, apologized to the victims and their families, calling it “a sad and regrettable chapter in the state’s history.”. 

And yes Conservatives do feel badly about the program, or at least they say they do as long as money isn’t involved.

“While our hearts go out to the victims, the budgetary and economic realities we inherited prevent us from pursuing a financial solution,” Republican Senator Phil Berger said in an e-mail. Others don’t couch their objections in fiscal jargon. “You just can’t rewrite history,” GOP Senator Don East told the Associated Press. “I’m so sorry it happened, but throwing money don’t change it, don’t make it go away. It still happened. If they’re sterile, they’re still sterile.”

And how much money was involved in trying to compensate the victims of the horrible action by government, an action that Conservatives deplore (and rightly so) in other countries.

A bipartisan bill in the North Carolina House that would pay each living victim $50,000 attracted more than 50 co-sponsors, including the Republican speaker, Thom Tillis, and easily passed. The House established an $11 million fund. North Carolina was on its way to becoming the first state in the country to compensate those harmed by eugenics programs.

Yeah, $50,000 to compensate a person for undergoing a forced sterilization program by the state.  Not much in the scheme of things.  But that was too much for Conservatives.

That’s when things fell apart. Opponents of reparations in the state senate have blocked the bill, claiming there’s no money to spare in North Carolina’s $20.2 billion budget. 

Yes, .05% of the budget, ($25.00 for a family whose income is $50,000.00) but even that is too much for anti-spending Conservatives to partially (and we do mean partially) right a horrible wrong.  But everyone knows the real issue here, the money would go to the poor, the minorities and the elderly.  These are people Conservatives have no sympathy for, and so no, they do not get anything other than an apology, and one wonders how sincere even that is from lawmakers who voted against this minimal payment.

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