At 57, Elaine Riddick has a house full of god children, great nieces and nephews, but only one child of her own – a son. When she was 14, Riddick was raped. The day she gave birth, doctors sterilized her on orders from the state of North Carolina.
“They said that I was feeble-minded, they said that I was promiscuous,” Riddick tells CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.
Riddick was one of nine children, poor, from a broken home. Her illiterate grandmother signed the sterilization papers with an “x.”
“I’ve always been able to take care of myself – I’ve never been promiscuous,” Riddick says. “So how can people use these things to describe a child that had been abandoned? Or that had been raped by the neighbor and then again, raped by the state of North Carolina.”
What happened to Riddick in North Carolina happened to more than 60,000 people in 32 states, from the 1920’s to the 1970s under state-sanctioned sterilization programs aimed at cutting welfare costs.
“The people who were the focus of this movement were the dispossessed of society,” says Paul Lombardo, of Georgia State University’s College of Law. “In some cases, simply people of color.”
North Carolina is the first state to consider making amends with a cash payment – $20,000 for each victim.
For Riddick, it’s not nearly enough to make up for a lifetime of regrets and emotional scars. “I am mad! I am mad! And I’m tired of hiding my feelings and I want everyone to know what, who should pay.”
Most of the sterilization laws, including North Carolina’s, were written to give states immunity from lawsuits. North Carolina would have to set aside $69 million to pay all of the surviving victims. That’s something lawmakers have not yet been willing to do.