On June 14, 1973, Minnie Lee Relf and her mentally disabled sister, Mary Alice, were sterilized without their knowledge or consent at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. Minnie Lee was 14 years old, and Mary Alice was 12.
The girls were previously administered experimental birth control injections, initially without their informed consent or that of their parents. When the birth control trial ended, staff at the clinic decided that the girls should be sterilized, as they were poor, black and living in public housing.
With the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Relf family filed suit against the clinic and the Office of Economic Opportunity, which provided the clinic’s federal funding. The lawsuit drew national attention to the targeted sterilization of poor, minority women and led to increased regulation of sterilization procedures for children and the mentally disabled as well as the termination of federal funding for coerced/involuntary sterilization.
Hosted by the late D’Army Bailey, Moments in Civil Rights History is produced in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and is part of Comcast NBCUniversal’s “His Dream, Our Stories” project.
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