Lombardo has been called on by numerous media in recent days, including the BBC News, the Associated Press, National Public Radio and the CBS Evening News.
June 23, 2011
ATLANTA -- As North Carolina considers becoming the first state to make financial amends to victims of state-sanctioned sterilization, Georgia State University College of Law Professor Paul Lombardo has become a much sought-after expert on the legal history of eugenics. Lombardo has been called on by numerous media in recent days, including the BBC News, the Associated Press, National Public Radio and the CBS Evening News.
North Carolina, which up until the late 1970s was home to the country's most active post-war sterilization program, is now considering how to make amends to thousands of people who cannot have children because of eugenics-inspired theories about social improvement.
In the AP story, which has been picked up by newspapers and websites throughout the country, Renee Elder and Tom Breen reported that overt rationalization for the programs ranged from protecting the potential offspring of mentally disabled parents to improving the overall health and intellectual competence of the human race. Before the atrocities of World War II, it was seen by many — both blacks and whites — as a legitimate effort to improve society.
"Sterilization was always a cost-cutting measure," Lombardo told the AP. "The argument was, anybody who generates social costs shouldn't be allowed to have children."
As CBS Evening News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reported on June 22, more than 60,000 people in 32 states, from the 1920's to the 1970s, were victims of state-sanctioned sterilization programs aimed at cutting welfare costs.
"The people who were the focus of this movement were the dispossessed of society," Lombardo told Cobiella in an interview at the College of Law. "In some cases, simply people of color."
Motivating the laws, Lombardo told the BBC News, was indignation at the thought that people who had violated sexual mores would subsequently end up needing public assistance.
"We have in this country have always been extremely sensitive to notions of public stories of inappropriate sexuality," he said. "We exercise that most dramatically when it comes to times in which we think we're spending individual tax money to support people who violate those social norms. It's our puritanical background, running up against our sense of individualism."
Other recent media appearances by Lombardo on this topic include:
Lombardo's book Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buck v. Bell (2008) was recognized at the 2009 Library of Virginia Literary Awards; it also earned him designation as a 2009 Georgia Author of the Year. Most recently, Lombardo edited A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era.
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