A city councilman apologized for suggesting that parents who don’t properly care for their children should be sterilized to help reduce crime.
“I know we can’t really sterilize people, but I wanted to start the dialogue,” Councilman Larry Shirley said Monday. “I could have done that over tea and crumpets, but we’ve been doing that. Nothing has happened. But if they don’t want a dialogue, I’ll shut my mouth.”
“I apologize to those I upset, but I believe this crime has got to stop,” Shirley said.
Black leaders have called for Shirley’s resignation, and the councilman said he has received death threats.
South Carolina was one of 33 states that once had eugenics laws that forced sterilization on people in mental institutions and prisons. In 2003, outgoing Gov. Jim Hodges formally apologized for that part of the state’s history.
Shirley’s original comment came in an interview with The (Charleston) Post and Courier in which he reacted to a video store holdup that authorities said was carried out by a group of children.
“We pick up stray animals and spay them,” Shirley said then. “These mothers need to be spayed if they can’t take care of theirs. Once they have a child and it’s running the street, to let them continue to have children is totally unacceptable.”
Shirley rejected the threats and calls for his resignation.
“I’m not ready to die or to quit the council,” he said Monday. “I’m going to continue to work on this problem with the mayor, the new police chief and whatever African Americans will still work with me.”