Sterilization in North Carolina: A Sociological and Psychological Study

Sterilization in North Carolina: A Sociological and Psychological Study

Sterilization in North Carolina: A Sociological and Psychological Study

Sterilization in North Carolina: A Sociological and Psychological Study

Excerpt

In the modern world of technology the folkways are supplanted largely by the technicways. If change can be brought about, it can best be done by understanding the folkways and substituting the technicways for them.-- Howard W. Odum in Understanding Society.

STERILIZATION, the prevention of reproduction in man or woman by surgical means, without unsexing, is an innovation unprecedented in human history. Its scientific application has been made possible, first, through the rapid development of surgical techniques consequent on the discovery and perfection of asepsis and anaesthesia during the latter half of the nineteenth century; and, secondly, through a parallel development on the philosophic plane, whereby former deterministic attitudes have given way to approval of positive action for human welfare.

The idea implied in sterilization, that of deliberate, elective, and permanent interference with reproductivity, has no tradition in our society. To some extent this is likewise true of scientific contraception, another phenomenon largely of the twentieth century. Both sterilization and contraception are products of urban scientific technology, making available new modes of behavior and gradually changing old-established ways of thinking. Their introduction in any community is at first bound to create conflict, since they appear by their radical nature to undermine and even attack so many cultural and institutional values. To cite the most obvious, they set up conflict between theology and eugenics, between opposing doctrines of laissez-faire and planning, between large family patterns and those more adapted to the contemporary social environment. Interwoven with these, intangible, and yet a dynamic force, is the complex of emotions attached to sex and reproductivity.

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