We have long been awaiting new work from Sue Ahlgren, who rose to fame in January after publishing an exhaustively-researched article in the Montecito Journal arguing for the unintuitive but apparently true claim that poor people are lazy. And she has at last delivered. In the Santa Barbara Independent today, Ahlgren carefully sifts through the history of eugenics in California—in light of revelations that forced sterilizations have continued to be performed in prisons until as recently as 2010—and concludes that somewhere around 2006 this practice ceased being a form of state-sponsored genocide against women of color and those with disabilities and instead became a responsible choice by those who finally realized that their decision to be a minority was reckless and unwise:
These are woman in federal prison, some with mental instability, who have accepted the counsel of health professionals in prison and decided that maybe, given their lifestyle, it would be prudent for them not to have more children. No doubt they came to the conclusion that repeated lawbreaking and incarceration is no way to raise a child.
Ahlgren accordingly takes State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to task for trying to position herself as an “advocate” for these women. Jackson, blinded by her privilege, presumes to speak for these women and erase their agency when they can speak perfectly well for themselves and have freely and happily placed themselves in the care of a prison system that has been entirely open about its mission of absolutely destroying them.
The only weakness of Ahlgren’s article is its terseness: her argument, against the historical consensus that forced sterilization is forced, is concise to a fault. Here it is in its entirety:
The argument just quoted obviously requires some elaboration, so I will attempt to flesh out Ahlgren’s thesis.
Why would any person of color, or disabled person, who has a uterus, and is in a racist, sexist, and ableist prison system, allow that system to further marginalize them by removing their capacity for reproduction? Perhaps Sue Ahlgren’s suggestion is that they have been so victimized by society, and have endured such pain, that do not wish to have more children who will inherit that agony. Perhaps, through some morbid rationality, they have decided that it would be a cruelty to bring a child into a world that still contains people like Sue Ahlgren.
But it’s also possible that I’ve misinterpreted her argument. And so I continue to look forward to hearing what Sue Ahlgren has to tell us.