South Carolina: Marietta Williams and Dorothy Waters

In 1972 a South Carolina physician publicly defended his professional policy on welfare mothers: he told the local press that it was his policy to require sterilization after delivery of a mother’s third baby in order to reduce the state welfare rolls.

Dr. Clovis H. Pierce was the only obstetrician in rural Aiken County, South Carolina who accepted Medicaid patients. When Marietta Williams, a 20-year old black woman on welfare was pregnant with her third child, Dr. Pierce refused to deliver the baby unless Ms. Williams agreed to sign the consent form for sterilization. Dr. Pierce told another patient (Dorothy Waters), “Listen here, young lady, this is my tax money paying for this baby and I’m tired of paying for illegitimate children. If you don’t want this sterilization, find another doctor.” (Roberts 1997:92).

Dr. Pierce subsequently sterilized 28 black women in a three month time period (CCESA 1977). Between 1971-1972, Dr. Pierce was paid $60,000 of taxpayers’ money in the form of Aiken County Hospital fees billed to Medicare funds. Though several of the women targeted by Dr. Pierce sought government assistance in addressing their cases, the Department of Social Services refused to intervene on their behalf (Roberts 1997:92).


Chicago Committee to End Sterilization Abuse (CCESA). 1977. “Sterilization Abuse: A Task for the Women’s Movement”(January-1977). Available online: <> Accessed: November 20, 2007.

Roberts, Dorothy. 1997. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. New York: Pantheon Books.


~ by Serena on November 24, 2007.

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