North Carolina vs. Reproductive Rights

| Mon Jun. 20, 2011 12:35 PM EDT

Last week, North Carolina became the third state to axe funding for Planned Parenthood. The move, which followed a failed effort to defund family planning at the federal level, will largely affect North Carolina women who lack insurance but aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, as the Huffington Post notes:

Planned Parenthood of North Carolina (PPNC), which has nine clinics across the state, provides affordable birth control, preventative health care and family planning services to over 25,000 men and women. Without the $434,000 a year it usually receives in state and federal funds, Planned Parenthood says it will now have to axe its teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent parenting programs and force its low-income patients to pay out of pocket.

Planned Parenthood is expected to sue over the cuts. But as another story out of North Carolina reminds us, the state has a long history of meddling in the reproductive rights of its citizens. The state is currently considering paying reparations to the thousands of women who underwent forced sterilization in North Carolina in the period following World War II and continuing up until 1974. The program, which targeted women with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and even the victims of rape, continued long after many other states had abandoned this pratice, the Associated Press reports:

Among the 33 states with eugenics programs, North Carolina's was unusual. The state had the most open-ended law, allowing doctors and social workers to refer people living at home to the state Eugenics Board for possible sterilization. In every other state, Lombardo said, people had to be either institutionalized or jailed before they could be sterilized.

Nearly 3,000 victims of North Carolina's sterilization program are still alive, and this week a state task force will consider potential compensation. It's shocking that just 36 years ago, forced sterilization was en vogue. Now the state wants to limit women's access not only to abortion, but to contraception by axing funding to a program that benefits mostly low-income women. They're different sides of the coin, but still an attempt to limit women's abilty to make their own decisions about whether or not they want to have children.

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