Does the history of sterilization have links to modern consent forms? How has forced sterilization intersected, if at all, with the fight for women's right to be voluntarily sterilized? Rebecca M. Kluchin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of history at California State University, Sacramento, and author of the book Fit to be Tied: Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in America, 1950-1980, was kind enough to answer some questions via email about the history of forced sterilization, the stigma of voluntary sterilization for childfree people, and how the struggles for and against sterilization have differed.
If we're going to talk about voluntary sterilization—or even the simple act of opting to have few or no children—we've got to get everyone on the same historical page. While I tend to take for granted that people understand the history of forced sterilization in the U.S., as well as countries such as China that mandate single-child families as part of population control, it may not be a given that everyone understands the connections between modern eugenics, race/class/ability privilege, reproductive justice, and the struggle for voluntary sterilization. Much as I know loads of folks use it as a jumping off point, skimming the Wikipedia entries for compulsory sterilization and eugenics in the United States only gets you so far.