The Los Angeles Times, "Eugenics Nuts Would Have Loved Norplant : The coercion of women on welfare to avoid child-bearing smells of '30s social cleansing," by Alexander Cockburn, 30 June 1994:
The original (six capsule) Norplant was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990 and marketed in the United States in 1991 by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals having been developed by Sheldon Segal.
"With bated breath, the entire civilized world is watching the bold experiment in mass sterilization recently launched by Germany. It is estimated that some 400,000 of the population will come within the scope of this law, the larger portion of whom fall into that group classed as inborn feeblemindedness. . . . It is estimated that, after several decades, hundreds of millions of marks will be saved each year as a result of the diminution of expenditures for patients with hereditary diseases."
Thus in 1935 spake Dr. J.N. Baker, state health officer, as he addressed the Alabama Legislature on prospective laws for compulsory sterilization of a category vaguely sketched as the "feebleminded," but also including "any sexual pervert . . . or any prisoner who has been twice convicted of rape" or imprisoned three times for any offense. Similarly scheduled for sterilization were those "habitually and constantly dependent on public relief or support by charity."
Before Hitler and his fellow Nazis (who said they learned much from U.S. sterilization laws) made the discipline unfashionable, eugenics and the prevention of socially unworthy babies were hot topics among American social engineers. The keenest engineers were not Southern crackers but Northern liberals. Eugenic sterilization was most energetically pushed by progressive politicians, medical experts and genteel women's groups. States pioneering sterilization laws early in the century included Robert M. LaFollette's Wisconsin and Woodrow Wilson's New Jersey.
It is conservatively estimated that between 1907 and 1960, 60,000 people were involuntarily sterilized. The science was bogus but its enthusiasts chanted that, within a few generations, society would be purged of imbeciles, criminals, the congenitally idle and other burdens on public patience and the public purse.
Norplant distribution in the United States ended in 2002; limited supplies still remained in the U.S. until 2004. Norplant was withdrawn from the UK market in 1999
Today we are seeing a renewal of the same vile eugenic passions. Just as, at the turn of the century, vasectomy allowed eugenicists to abandon advocacy of crude castration, so today Norplant--capsules inserted in a woman's upper arm, preventing pregnancy for up to five years and approved by the FDA in 1990--substitutes for grosser attacks on women's fertility.
The argument of the social cleansers is that welfare mothers have babies to accrue more benefits. A few years down the road, they say, these babies ultimately repeat the cycle of dependency and insensate, benefit-related reproduction. Response: Curtail the babies by cutting the welfare benefits; end the cycle by ending welfare.
We are at a critical stage on the evolution of these policies. On April 25, Arizona and Nebraska both prohibited Aid to Families With Dependent Children benefit increases for recipients having further babies while on the dole, though in Arizona, the Legislature finally dropped an outright prohibition on welfare assistance for mothers with more than two children.
By 1996, more than 50,000 women had filed lawsuits, including 70 class actions, against Wyeth and/or its subsidiaries, or doctors who prescribed Norplant.
In Connecticut, a bill providing subsidies for AFDC recipients accepting Norplant ($700 when it's implanted, plus $200 annually) recently died. New Jersey, a pioneer in the old sterilization crusade, is eliminating its tiny increases for mothers having children while on welfare. Georgia has done the same, and similar proposals are being considered in at least 21 other states. Wisconsin, another sterilization pioneer, is also experimenting with exclusions of children born on welfare.
Vicious myths about greedy overbreeders fuel this legislative craze, which ignores the truth: Welfare recipients average fewer than two children per family and fertility rates of AFDC recipients are lower than among the general population. The prospect of additional benefits is statistically insignificant as a factor in the choice of a mother on welfare to have a baby.
The NORPLANT (levonorgestrel implants unavailable in USA or UK) SYSTEM is a progestin-only product and does not contain estrogen.
Beyond these, there is the profoundest myth of all, which blames young, poor, unmarried mothers for drug abuse, slums, poverty, a stagnant economy and the falling rate of profit; as with the vasectomist's knife, Norplant will turn society around. These are gas-chamber economics and social prescriptions. At this fraught moment, strong leadership from the White House would surely help in putting the social cleansers to flight. But under the most recent draft of President Clinton's welfare proposals, states will no longer have to seek a waiver from the federal government when embarking on a "child disincentive" program.
The door is swinging open and all the old filth seeping through: Wait for the social engineers to start insisting that poor black female teen-agers accept Norplant as a condition for probation or any form of social benefit, or for living in public housing, or for existing. (source: The Los Angeles Times, 30 June 1994)