The New Sterilization
This lecture opens the Lane Hall exhibition, “Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States,” curated by Rickie Solinger.
Mothers of young children are the fastest-growing population of incarcerated persons in the United States today. Policing practices that target poor women of childbearing age—many of them women of color, most convicted of nonviolent crimes—have halted these women’s heterosexual sex lives and reproductive opportunities as effectively as coercive sterilization programs interrupted the fertility of numerous welfare recipients in the 1970s. These practices arguably function as a contemporary extension of population policies embedded in U.S. laws governing slavery and immigration since the 18th century.
RICKIE SOLINGER is a historian and curator who writes about reproductive and welfare politics, and the relationships of race and class to these issues. She authored the award-winning “Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade.” Her new book is “Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know.”