Easley Signs Law Ending State's Eugenics Era
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 17, 2003
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA--Governor Mike Easley signed a law Thursday that officially puts an end to forced sterilizations in North Carolina.
"To the victims and families of this regrettable episode in North Carolina's past, I extend my sincere apologies and want to assure them that we will not forget what they have endured," Easley stated as he signed the measure to repeal the 1929 sterilization law that had not been used since 1974.
Among those present at the signing were Elaine Riddick Jessie and Nial Cox Ramirez, who received a standing ovation from state House members and onlookers when they were introduced.
"It was a very joyful event to see that someone actually took the time and heard our cries ... took the time and paid attention," Jessie said.
"No one should ever feel the pain and agony of not being able to have children," she said. "It's a God-given right: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the world with images of thyself. This is something they took away from us."
The sterilization law had given power to the Eugenics Board of North Carolina to sterilize 7,600 people, most of whom had mental retardation or mental illness, most against their will. Only California and Virginia performed more sterilizations.
The eugenics movement in the early and mid- 20th century was based on the belief that keeping "undesirable" people from having children would be a good way to correct society's problems. More than 66,000 people in 33 states and two Canadian provinces were legally sterilized under eugenics laws passed by lawmakers. In North Carolina, most of those sterilized during the 1960s were young black women and girls -- some as young as 10 years of age.
Governors of North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, South Carolina and California have officially apologized for their states' involvement in the eugenics movement. In February, Gov. Easley set up a committee to investigate his state's eugenics program and consider reparations or counseling for its victims.