Am pretty much ignoring Bush's new marriage initiative, as I do most stupid things that I hear about. But it did remind me of something the youngsters may not even have heard of, from the last time the Republicans decided to impose their wisdom on the lower classes and lesser races: ACLU: Norplant: A New Contraceptive with the Potential for Abuse, from the distant past of a decade ago, 1994:
Norplant is a new contraceptive that became commercially available in the United States in February, 1991, after its approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Norplant consists of six matchstick-size silicone capsules that are inserted in a woman's upper arm. The capsules release small amounts of progestin over five years and must be inserted and removed by a trained medical professional.
[. . .] But this new method of birth control has also been a vehicle for infringing on the reproductive autonomy of women. Almost immediately after the FDA approved Norplant at the end of 1990, judges and legislators attempted to mandate its use by certain individual women or groups of women. Because it works automatically, is easily monitored, and cannot be removed without medical assistance, Norplant can be used more readily than other contraceptives to control women's reproduction.
[. . .] In several states, judges have given women convicted of child abuse or drug use during pregnancy a "choice" between using Norplant or serving time in jail. In 1991, 1992, and 1993, legislators in more than a dozen states introduced measures that, had they passed, would have coerced women to use Norplant. Some of these bills would have offered financial incentives to women on welfare to induce them to use Norplant. Other legislation would have required women receiving public assistance either to use Norplant or lose their benefits. Some bills would have forced women convicted of child abuse or drug use during pregnancy to have Norplant implanted.
Since I'm about to pass out, and am too disgusted to think about it, I'm not checking to see if this is still a going concern. That it was even floated as a trial balloon says entirely too much.
Because in my opinion, there's a few things you just don't even consider. You don't discuss the cost/benefit analysis. You don't calmly speculate about possibilities. Some things are just too fucking horrifying for sane people to rationally discuss. And forced sterilization is pretty high on that list.
Because the people calmly speculating about this weren't talking about the good, white women who outnumber the women of color on the welfare rolls, oh no.
The policies affecting these women–prosecuting pregnant substance abusers, pressuring women to use and keep in Norplant, and welfare family caps–all have two central features in common. They are designed to influence reproductive decision making; more specifically, they are designed to deter certain women from having children. And they affect poor women and a disproportionate number of Black and Latina women. The vast majority of women who have been prosecuted for drug use during pregnancy are poor Black women who smoked crack, even though this health problem cuts across racial and economic lines. Of the four dozen women arrested in South Carolina, all but one were Black. (And the nurse noted on the chart of the sole white woman arrested that her boyfriend was Black.)
Only two days after the FDA approved Norplant, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a controversial editorial, "Poverty and Norplant: Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?" The editorial linked two recent news items: one announced the approval of Norplant; the other reported research findings that half of Black children live in poverty. It then went on to propose Norplant as a solution to inner-city poverty, arguing that the main reason why more Black children are living in poverty is that the people having the most children are the ones least capable of supporting them. The Inquirer was forced to print an apology when Black leaders across the country expressed their outrage at the editorial’s racist and eugenic overtones. But many journalists and pundits came to the Inquirer’s defense. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch put it, Norplant offers society yet another way to curb the expansion of an underclass, most of whose members face futures of disorder and deprivation.
That article, by Dorothy Roberts, is worth a read. As is my wont, I cherry-picked an excerpt to demonstrate my point. It gets worse.
But don't take her -- or my -- word for it. Have a look at The Impact of Norplant on Minority Women:
The problem with judicial and legislative enticement of Norplant implants is the decision is not voluntary. As was seen in the [California case of People v. Johnson], the defendant had the option of seven years in prison or one year in prison and Norplant implants. This is not much of an option. Likewise when the state offers increased welfare benefits for Norplant use, the recipient does not have much of an option. Many of the recipients need the extra money to provide for themselves and their family. The choice to "voluntarily" submit to Norplant is their only other option beside starving. For these reasons a woman’s choice is coerced into accepting Norplant. Thus the state is effectively sterilizing these women. Most of the following annotations provide insight on how this coercion effects poor African American women.
Or maybe Norplant and the Dark Side of the Law:
Black, Asian and Hispanic women comprised a disproportionate number (86 percent) of the forced surgery victims mentioned previously. Opponents of mandatory Norplant legislation claim that it, too, will result in discrimination.
[. . .] While white and black women tested positive for drugs at equal rates, black women were reported to authorities ten times more often. Poor women have likewise been reported at much higher rates than their middle-class counterparts.
Opponents of [Washington senate bill 5278] also suggest that mandatory Norplant legislation is itself discriminatory-along gender lines. Lonnie Johns-Brown of the National Organization for Women suggests that the bill ignores the fetal effects of paternal drug use. While Patterson agrees that "it may seem like a biological injustice" to target women, she believes it boils down to a "biological reality" in which mothers "expose infants to their blood stream." Johns-Brown and others counter with the fact that fathers are very often supplying addicted mothers with drugs throughout their pregnancies.
But, you know, other than the racial and gender discrimination, it was a great idea, really.
I'm sure this new marriage promotion thing is founded on the same principles, and will go over just as well.
One last point, from that ACLU link up there:
Dr. Sheldon Segal, the originator of Norplant, has stated: "I am totally and unalterably opposed to the use of Norplant for any coercive or involuntary purpose. It was developed to improve reproductive freedom, not to restrict it. My colleagues and I worked on this innovation for decades because we respect human dignity and believe that women should be able to have the number of children they want, when they want to have them. Not just educated and well-to-do women, but all women."
A Google News search did bring up a recent link to National Review Online, but since I'd like to maintain some faith in humanity, I'll just not click that. Anyone feeling braver wants to hit it and sum it up in comments, feel free.