Sterilizing Black Women A Common Practice In 32 States

Local Anesthesia
via Flickr
Brooke Brown
December 18, 2019

In 1973, Alabama sisters Minnie Lee (age 14) and Mary Alice (age 12) Reft found themselves at the mercy of a federally-funded “family planning” clinic. 

Rather than treat the girls with care, medical staff deceived their mother and prepped them for surgery.

When the dust settled the girls had been illegally and permanently sterilized as a way to control the population of the Black race in impoverished areas of the South. 

Tragically, these types of eugenics programs were legally practiced in 32 states between the years of 1929 to 1974. What’s even worse is the limited means families have been afforded to fight for justice.

Mrs. Relf did eventually join a federal class-action lawsuit demanding a ban on the use of federal funds for sterilizations. 

But by 2013, a majority of the 7,600 victims of North Carolina’s eugenics experiments had died before they received one dime from the $10 million reparations package the state insultingly hoped would settle the heinous matter.

Cases like that of the Relf sisters and NC’s eugenics victims expose the generational trauma still felt by Black families today. 

For good reason, we remain skeptical of white medical practitioners who have been eager to experiment on and commit reproductive injustices against our bodies as recently as the 1970s.

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