NC panel recommends $50,000 in sterilization compensation

Posted January 10, 2012

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— People sterilized against their will under a discredited North Carolina state program should each be paid $50,000, a task force voted Tuesday, marking the first time a state has moved to compensate victims of a once-common public health practice called eugenics.

The Eugenics Compensation Task Force recommended that the money go to verified, living victims, including those who are alive now but may die before the lawmakers approve any compensation. The legislature must still approve any payments.

"This critical issue is of great concern and interest to me, and this is a positive step toward a common goal," House Speaker Thom Tillis, who has supported compensating sterilization victims, said in a statement. "I look forward to reviewing the recommendations in detail and discussing the matter with members of the General Assembly, non-partisan fiscal staff and other stakeholders as we move forward."

A task force report last year said 1,500 to 2,000 of those victims were still alive, and the state has verified 72 victims. If the estimate is correct, the payments could total around $100 million. Survivors will have three years to apply for payments from the time a measure approving them goes into effect.

"No amount of money can adequately compensate victims for what they endured, and we are not trying to value life," said Laura Gerald, chairwoman of the task force. "The reason for compensation is, one, to provide meaningful assistance to survivors and, two, to put a package together for the state that would say to people that North Carolina pays for its mistakes and to let us move forward as a state."

State officials sterilized around 7,600 people between 1929 and 1974. Roughly 85 percent of those sterilized were women or girls, and most were poor or black. The state ended the program in 1977.

In 2002, then-Gov. Mike Easley formally apologized for the program.

Gov. Beverly Perdue echoed Gerald's sentiments, saying she was in favor of the recommendations and would pass them along to lawmakers.

Eugenics victim, sterilization NC lawmakers to consider payments to sterilization victims

"While no amount of money will ever make up for the fact that government officials deprived North Carolinians, mostly women, of the possibility of having children – and officials did so, in most cases, without the victims’ consent or against their will – we must do something," Perdue said in a statement. "I support the task force’s compensation proposal. I also agree that we should establish a permanent exhibit so that this shameful period is never forgotten.”

The panel had discussed amounts between $20,000 and $50,000 per person, and some victims and their family members had reacted angrily to the proposals because they felt the amounts were too low. But on Tuesday, some said they were simply looking forward to the issue being resolved.

"I just want it to be over," said 57-year-old Elaine Riddick, who was sterilized when she was 14 after she gave birth to a son who was the product of rape. "You can't change anything. You just let go and let God."

Riddick, a constant presence at the task force meetings, said she was surprised that the task force recommended $50,000 instead of $20,000.

The task force also recommended state-funded mental health services for living victims and a traveling museum exhibit to educate people about the eugenics program.

No payments were recommended for families of sterilization victims who have already died. Gerald said such payments likely wouldn't be financially feasible.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 13, 2012

    There are 7 BILLION people on this planet.

    There are over a half of a million unwanted babies in the U.S. waiting for someone to adopt them.

    At most, why don't we apologize (we've done worse to many other people) and just waive the adoption fees for these people?

  • irishgirlsarepretty Jan 11, 2012

    50k is not enough! No amount of money can make up for what has been taken from these people, of course, but 50k doesn't last long these days. As much money as this state wastes on stupid stuff, I don't see any reason why the victims shouldn't get 250k tax free - AND exempted from state taxes the rest of their lives. 250k is enough to buy a house and a car and have some left over - or, alternately, it's enough to live on decently for many years if you do it right.

    The victims deserve to be decently compensated. 50k isn't gonna get it.

  • driverkid3 Jan 11, 2012

    You people that are bashing these people and saying they don't need the money have no earthly idea what you are talking about. You have no idea what these people went through and are STILL going through. These people had something taken from them, something that can never be replaced even with $100,000,000.00.
    You that are griping didn't do this, true enough, but when you bash these people, you are violating them all over again. The really pathetic thing about it is, you seem to take great pleasure in doing this. Every time I read about what was done, it hurts all over again and what you all are doing is a slap in the face. See, I AM one of those women, and there is no amount of money that can replace what was done to me at 17 years of age. I busted my can working on the farm since I was a kid, then did any job that was given to me. Never took a penny from this state until I became disabled, so you have no room to throw this garbage.

  • driverkid3 Jan 11, 2012

    I am one of those women that some of you are bashing. I don't want the money, it cannot pay me for being violated by this evil state. I worked for a good many years of my youth on the farm, and later whenever and wherever I could get a job. Never took a cotton picking thing from this state until I became disabled. No, you that are bashing had nothing to do with this, I will agree, I do wish, however that each one of you could walk a mile in the shoes of those that had this horrible thing done to them. You have no earthly idea what it's like, how it feels or NOTHING about this. I don't want your money, there is no way it could EVER in a billion years repay what was done to me and the others. You just have no idea, none at all.

  • working for deadbeats Jan 11, 2012

    Before the grammar police get me...let me fix THERE to THEIR in my previous comment.

  • westernwake1 Jan 11, 2012

    Can we vote on which North Carolina politicians should be sterilized to be sure that they don't breed a next generation of fools to inhabit government offices in downtown Raleigh.

  • 4Cats Jan 11, 2012

    "While no amount of money will ever make up for the fact that government officials deprived North Carolinians, mostly women, of the possibility of having children – and officials did so, in most cases, without the victims’ consent or against their will – we must do something," Perdue said

    Are you still going to compensate all the ones that did have children prior to the sterilization? Seems many of them have several biological kids...

    Sounding more and more like greed everytime I read an article...

  • working for deadbeats Jan 11, 2012

    Why are the local leftys upset by this program? It was there program in the first place and now they want to compensate these people. You can pay them out of your own bank account!

  • SmokeWagon Jan 11, 2012

    ...."I wonder what most people who think that a payment is abhorrent would have think if their little sister or baby girl had been sliced open so a government representative could take out their body parts without any medical reason...."

    It is done EVERY DAY...it's called ABORTION.....!!!!!!!!!!

  • hlpulley Jan 11, 2012

    Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie,it will never stop, and they will never get enough. It was an insult to offer them only $50,000 ,they want $50,000,000, but if you offer them the latter, they`l want 10 times that.Im sick of hearing,"we must move forward", we need to move back to GOD & HARD WORK.