From the 1920s through the 1970s, the North Carolina Board of Eugenics oversaw the forced sterilization of nearly 7600 people. Men and women were declared "feeble-minded" or "promiscuous" and many were sterilized without even their knowledge, let alone their consent. Governor Mike Easley issued an official state apology for the sterilizations in 2002, but no compensation has been paid to the victims. Now, decades after the program ended, a task force has been established to hear the victims stories and consider paying restitution.
In her book Private Bodies, Public Texts: Race, Gender, and Cultural Bioethics, Karla FC Holloway asserts that women of color were particularly vulnerable to forced sterilization efforts. She cites the startling statistic that an "experiment in population control" led to "more thatn one-third of the women of childbearing age in Puerto Rico" being sterilized in the 1950s. And her research cites case after sad case of black, Native American, and poor women being sterilized against their will. Her book calls for medical and research professionals to realize the link between culture and ethics, and to understand that their work is always influenced by the culture at large.
Many North Carolina lawmakers have voiced concern about the cost of possible reparations. Representative Larry Womble has been an outspoken advocate for the victims. He says, "The right thing is the government be responsible for what they did, the government have to pay for what they did." But Karla Holloway is worried that being allowed to "tell their stories" in a public forum is all the victims may get. "Spectacle is substituting for rights and reparations," she says, "and at what cost?"