Bill would allow Wake, 3 other counties to compensate sterilization victims

Posted June 9

— A bill that aims to correct a flaw in the state's eugenics compensation program cleared a House committee Thursday and could be on the floor early next week.

The House Committee on Children, Youth and Families stripped out the language of Senate Bill 29, which focused on redacting dates of birth on public records, and replaced it with a proposal that would allow Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford and Forsyth counties to set up their own compensation funds for people who were forcibly sterilized decades ago.

From the 1930s through the 1970s, more than 7,600 North Carolinians were sterilized under the state's eugenics program. Many were intellectually or developmentally disabled. Others were juvenile delinquents, children of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol or simply from poor families.

State lawmakers set aside $10 million in 2013 to compensate living victims, but fewer than half of the 780 people who applied for compensation were found to qualify for payment. Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said some of those who were disqualified were sterilized by county social service agencies, not the state, so the new legislation could rectify that.

"The idea is that they are just as eligible to be compensated as those who were sterilized by the state," Stam said. " It is a matter of justice for these people."

The four counties account for the bulk of the cases of county-ordered sterilizations, he said. In Wake County, he said, most of those procedures would have occurred at Dorothea Dix Hospital.

Under the proposal, the four counties could use the state Industrial Commission to screen applicants, which is the method the state program has used, or they could set up their own system to determine who should be compensated.

The counties would have to determine compensation amounts, Stam said, noting the state fund provides about $50,000 to each victim. Sterilization victims wouldn't be allowed to sue a county if it chooses not to set up a compensation program.


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