Sterilization is the most effective method of birth control except abstinence from sexual intercourse, and its safety and permanence appeal to many who want no more children or who prefer to remain childless. Sterilization is the leading method of birth control in the United States and around the world (Peterson, 2008). Although medical procedures to reverse sterilization in both men and women can be performed, current reversal procedures involve complicated surgery, and a subsequent pregnancy is uncertain (Hsiao et al., 2012). Therefore, sterilization is recommended only to those who desire a permanent method of birth control (Lawrence et al., 2011b).
Needless to say, sterilization should always be the decision of each individual or couple. Unfortunately, that has not always been the policy in the United States. In 1924 a Supreme Court decision, Buck v. Bell, legalized forced sterilization as part of the eugenics (good breeding) program in the United States. Continuing into the 1970s, more than 30 states participated in the forced or coerced sterilization of 70,000 U. S. citizens. Most victims were women, and more than 60% were African Americans. Some women were sterilized without their knowledge after giving birth. Others were forced to choose sterilization or termination of family welfare benefits. The state ordered some sterilizations for women it defined as lazy or promiscuous. To date, North Carolina is the only state to issue a formal apology and to establish a commission to make amends to the victims (Schoen, 2006; Sinderbrand, 2005). Since 2003 a North Carolina task force has identified 48 of the estimated 2,000 victims still living and is working toward providing monetary compensation for them and establishing a museum exhibit about the state’s eugenics program (Goldschmidt, 2012; Kessel & Hopper, 2011).