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California Once Targeted Latinas for Forced Sterilization

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tags: California, eugenics



In the first half of the 20th century, approximately 60,000 people were sterilized under U.S. eugenics programs. Eugenic laws in 32 states empowered government officials in public health, social work and state institutions to render people they deemed “unfit” infertile.

California led the nation in this effort at social engineering. Between the early 1920s and the 1950s, Iris and approximately 20,000 other people—one-third of the national total—were sterilized in California state institutions for the mentally ill and disabled.

To better understand the nation’s most aggressive eugenic sterilization program, our research team tracked sterilization requests of over 20,000 people. We wanted to know about the role patients’ race played in sterilization decisions. What made young women like Iris a target? How and why was she cast as “unfit”?

Read entire article at Smithsonian

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