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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Sunday, January 22

more on race, class & american eugenics

Because the issue is so politically loaded, it is extremely difficult to find trustworthy information on how the early birth control movement was tied to systematic U.S. eugenics initiatives. This book seems just such a credible source. The following -- and the photo to the right -- are from Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare by Johanna Schoen (p. 22). The author is assistant professor of history and women's studies at the University of Iowa.
Under the leadership of Margaret Sanger, the early birth control movement sought the repeal of the Comstock Law of 1873, which prohibited dissemination of birth control or information about birth control through the U.S. Mail.... By the 1920s, Sanger had grown frustrated with the movement’s slow progress and had begun to work to forge a professional alliance with the medical establishment. Hoping to gain broader support, she began to emphasize eugenic and economic arguments, increasingly grounding her claims for the legalization of birth control on the ideal of racial progress and and efficiency.
The book was published last year by the University of North Carolina Press in its Gender and American Culture series. From the back cover:
In August 2003, North Carolina became the first U.S. state to offer restitution to victims of state-ordered sterilizations carried out by its eugenics program between 1929 and 1975. The decision was prompted by newspaper stories based on the research of Johanna Schoen, who was granted unique access to summaries of 7,500 case histories and the papers of the North Carolina Eugenics Board....

On an international level, the United States has influenced reproductive health policies by, for example, tying foreign aid to the recipients' compliance with U.S. notions about family planning. The availability of U.S.-funded family planning aid has proved to be a double-edged sword, offering unprecedented opportunities to poor women while subjecting foreign patients to medical experimentation that would be considered unacceptable at home.

Cover illustration: Birth control nurse Lena Hilliard
with a client and her children, late 1930s.
(Courtesy of Countway Medical Library)



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