Louisiana State Representative John LaBruzzo is considering proposing a plan that would pay poor women $1,000 to be sterilized. He has said the program would be voluntary, could involve sterilization of both women and men, could encourage other forms of birth control, and could include tax incentives that would encourage people in higher socio-economic classes to have more children.
LaBruzzo told the The Times-Picayune that what he is “really studying is any and all possibilities that we can [use to] reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare.” After witnessing the evacuations from hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, he told the New Orleans City Business that he “realized that all these people were in Louisiana’s care and what a massive financial responsibility that is to the state…I said, ‘I wonder if it might be a good idea to pay some of these people to get sterilized.”
Yeah, you read that right: A politician is creating economic incentives for poor people to have fewer children, and for rich people to have more. I support making sterilization and all other form of birth control free and accessible, so that they truly are voluntary — but paying poor women $1,000 to tie their tubes doesn’t sound like “voluntary” birth control to me. It sounds like coercion.
And it sounds like racist coercion. There’s an established history of targeting poor women and women of color for sterilization and long-term birth control in an effort to stem the birth rate among “undeserving” mothers, and prevent more “unwanted” children. There’s also a history of coercing and sometimes forcing “fit” women (that is, white, rich women) to reproduce against their will, for the good of the country/the white race/the culture.
So this isn’t surprising, and it fits pretty well into the right-wing framework — but it’s still horrendous and appalling policy. And while I’m all about starting conversations, the idea that poor people shouldn’t reproduce — and should in fact be bribed into undergoing surgery that will prevent them from doing so — isn’t one that should have any place in an enlightened society.
BFP, posting at Elle PhD, has much, much more about eugenics, reproductive violence, and what women, families and communities actually need. Head over and read her post for a more thorough explanation of why this matters.
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