The United States Once Sterilized Tens of Thousands — Here’s How the Supreme Court Allowed It
Trevor Burrus

In 1977, I was a young special education teacher from Connecticut. I moved to Charlottesville, VA and got a job teaching at a high school 30 miles north in Gordonville. I taught students who were labeled mentally retarded. They were all black. I also taught students who were labeled learning disabled. They were all white. The n-word was regularly used in the teacher’s lounge. Prayer was a part of the day. Needless to say , the little Yankee girl was shocked and clearly out of my element. The most shocking event was finding out that one of my “retarded” students had already been sterilized because she had a baby. The baby was removed from the mother at birth. Her sister, also one of my students, was also going to be sterilized to prevent her from becoming pregnant. Birth control pills were available at that time but weren’t a strong enough solution, I imagine. I don’t claim to know all the circumstances behind these decisions. I was silently outraged. Yes, silently. I let my fears and insecurities silence my outrage. I don’t imagine I could have changed the outcome, but all these years later I still remember.

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