Paper Title

The Situation in Aiken: Race, Class, and Sterilization

Location

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

1-4-2016 9:00 AM

End Date

1-4-2016 10:15 AM

Keywords

race, gender, class, feminism, reproductive rights

Abstract

Jennifer Gunter

The Situation in Aiken: Race, Class, and Sterilization

This paper examines a series of sterilizations performed on female welfare recipients in Aiken County, South Carolina. In 1973 two women brought charges against Dr. Clovis Pierce, the only doctor who accepted Medicaid in the county. The doctor publicly announced his policy to sterilize mothers on welfare who had given birth to three or more children and defended his position in the local press claiming he did so because of the “heavy tax burden welfare was causing.”[1] Hospital records showed that nineteen of the thirty-four deliveries paid for by Medicaid in 1972 had included sterilization. Of those nineteen women who were sterilized, sixteen of them had been African American. Two women, Marietta Williams and Dorothy Waters, filed a suit against Pierce who had reportedly told Waters, “Listen here, young lady, this is my tax money paying for this baby and I’m tired of paying for illegitimate children. If you don’t want this sterilization, find another doctor.”[2]

[1] Nancy Hicks. “Sterilization of Black Mother of 3 Stirs Aiken, S.C.: Residents Angered Defended Policy Baby Still Hospitalized Fears Reaction No Investigation,” New York Times, August 1, 1973.

[2] Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Vintage Books, 1998), 92.

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Apr 1st, 9:00 AM Apr 1st, 10:15 AM

The Situation in Aiken: Race, Class, and Sterilization

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Jennifer Gunter

The Situation in Aiken: Race, Class, and Sterilization

This paper examines a series of sterilizations performed on female welfare recipients in Aiken County, South Carolina. In 1973 two women brought charges against Dr. Clovis Pierce, the only doctor who accepted Medicaid in the county. The doctor publicly announced his policy to sterilize mothers on welfare who had given birth to three or more children and defended his position in the local press claiming he did so because of the “heavy tax burden welfare was causing.”[1] Hospital records showed that nineteen of the thirty-four deliveries paid for by Medicaid in 1972 had included sterilization. Of those nineteen women who were sterilized, sixteen of them had been African American. Two women, Marietta Williams and Dorothy Waters, filed a suit against Pierce who had reportedly told Waters, “Listen here, young lady, this is my tax money paying for this baby and I’m tired of paying for illegitimate children. If you don’t want this sterilization, find another doctor.”[2]

[1] Nancy Hicks. “Sterilization of Black Mother of 3 Stirs Aiken, S.C.: Residents Angered Defended Policy Baby Still Hospitalized Fears Reaction No Investigation,” New York Times, August 1, 1973.

[2] Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Vintage Books, 1998), 92.