In my archive I came across this Sydney Morning Herald article cited the case of a Ms Elaine Riddick whose miserable circumstances 48 years ago attracted the attention of social workers, who referred her case to the state's Eugenics Board.
In an office building in Raleigh, North Carolina, five men met to consider her fate.
She was a confused and frightened 14-year-old, poor and black, the daughter of alcoholic parents in a segregated North Carolina town and she was pregnant after being raped by a man from her neighbourhood. Board members concluded the girl was ''feebleminded'' and doomed to ''promiscuity." They recommended sterilisation. Ms Riddick's illiterate grandmother, Maggie Woodard, marked an ''X'' on a consent form.
The article went on to explain that hours after Ms Riddick gave birth to a son on March 5, 1968, a doctor sliced through her fallopian tubes and cauterised them. Now the state of North Carolina has proposed paying $US50,000 ($47,000) each to compensate Ms Riddick and other victims of its eugenics program.
Furthermore, between 1929 and 1974, nearly 7600 people were sterilised under orders from North Carolina's Eugenics Board. Nearly 85 per cent were women or girls, some as young as 10. The state estimates that 1500 to 2000 of the victims are still alive.
The article stated that Ms Riddick has endured a lifetime of humiliation and regret. She can barely control her outrage when she discusses what the state did to her and what the state proposes by way of compensation and apology. The baby born, Tony Riddick, now 43, is an entrepreneur in North Carolina, says what the state did to his mother is a crime. ''This is not sterilisation,'' he told the task force. ''This is genocide.'' He supports his mother's refusal of the payment.
Wikipedia explains Eugenics historically, many of its practitioners viewed eugenics as a science, not necessarily restricted to human populations; this embraced the views of Darwin and Social Darwinism.
Eugenics was widely popular in the early decades of the 20th century. The First International Congress of Eugenics in 1912, and supported by none other than the British First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, as its inaugural honourary Vice President. The German National Socialists' (NSDAP) approach to genetics and eugenics became focused on which led to the NAZI policy of genocide.
By 1915 there were serious objections to Eugencis and by the mid-20th century it had fallen into disfavour, having become associated with Nazi Germany. But in the US beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble minded" from marrying.
In 1898 Charles B. Davenport, a prominent American biologist experimented with evolution in plants and animals. In 1904 Davenport received funds from the Carnegie Institution to found the Station for Experimental Evolution.
The Eugenics Record Office opened in 1910 and as evidenced in the Sydney Morning Herald article the policy in some US States continued to 1974. Furthermore, the offer made to Elaine Riddick is less than half of what the Class Action against the owners of cruise ship Costa Concordia that hit a reef near Corsica on 13 January this year. The Class Action is seeking $100,000 for each and every passenger.
Australia did not escape the Eugencis revolution. The prestigious institution, the University of Melbourne and some of the city's leading citizens in the 1920's gave their full support to the policy. The article "Eugenics in Australia: The secret of Melbourne's elite" spells this out.
Eugenics is now discredited however sterilisation can now be enforced by the Courts. The article "Moving Forward or Losing Control - Sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities in Australia" states: "In Australia the issue of sterilisation has been the subject of debate since the early 1980s when it became clear that many women with disabilities were being sterilised without their consent and in many cases without their knowledge."
The High Court in 1992 found that fundamental questions of human rights such as the right to reproduce should be decided by the courts rather than by parents, carers or medical practitioners.
"Christian views on Sterilisation" - up came hundreds of web sites on Google. This is not an easy question. The Christian when confronted with such issues in a personal format soon realises that academic pat-answers solve nothing, rather it becomes a pastoral issue where a range of theological and ethical issues get raised within the context of conscience and heartache.
It seems to me, this issue should be seen in the light of the Cross, where the God of the Universe sent His only begotten Son to die on the Cross of Calvary and rise again the third day to ensure victory over sin and death, that the Christian world view places enormous "value on human life".
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html