State News

NAACP seeks to extend deadline for eugenics claims

Posted June 30, 2014 1:03 p.m. EDT
Updated June 30, 2014 6:41 p.m. EDT

— The state chapter of the NAACP has sent an open letter to Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger seeking a yearlong deadline extension for victims of the state's eugenics program.

Monday was the last day for victims of the forced sterilization program, which ran from 1929 to 1974, to apply for state compensation.

Lawmakers last year set aside $10 million in the state budget to provide compensation to victims of the eugenics program. The exact payment per victim will depend on how many settlements are approved.

As many as 1,800 victims may still be alive, but only 630 had submitted claim forms to the state Office for Justice of Sterilization Victims as of last Thursday.

The office has forwarded 465 of those to the state Industrial Commission, which handles all tort claims against the state and will be responsible for determining whether a claimant is eligible for compensation. The remaining forms have been logged as valid claims and are either missing information or require additional research before they can be processed.

NAACP President Rev. William Barber said North Carolina has not done a good enough job reaching out to victims.

The Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims sent about 1,000 direct-mail pieces to identified victims, made hundreds of telephone calls and partnered with other state agencies on outreach efforts, officials said.

A bill to extend the period to file claims until Sept. 30 was filed last month but has stalled in the General Assembly.

Mary "Bunny" English said she was tricked into being sterilized at a Fayetteville OB-GYN clinic in 1972, when she was 22. She already had three children and said she was told by her doctor that the procedure could be reversed, but when she was getting married a few years later and wanted more children, she learned she couldn't.

"Well, I went back, and he sits there and starts to laugh," English said Monday. "I asked him what's so funny, and he said, 'I sterilized you. You'll never have another child.'"

English, who has fought for the rights of eugenic victims, has already been denied compensation because she can't locate any medical records to prove she didn't understand what was being done.

She said she thinks there are a number of women in the same position who won't be able to be compensated.

"If they're like me with nothing on their medical records from a doctor, they're going to be left out," she said. "I have a feeling that, once I did what I did, well, a lot of medical records might have been destroyed."

Still, she said, being able to finally talk about what happened to her has been helpful.