Local News

Perdue pledges $10.3M for eugenics efforts

Posted April 25, 2012 12:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2012 1:36 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Bev Perdue on Wednesday said that she will include $10.3 million in her 2012 budget proposal for funds that will help compensate people impacted by the state's sterilization program. 

The funds Perdue pledged Wednesday will support $50,000 payments to verified victims of North Carolina's former Eugenics program and continued operations of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, which provides ongoing outreach and clearinghouse services to assist Eugenics victims. 

"We cannot change the terrible things that happened to so many of our most vulnerable citizens, but we can take responsibility for our state's mistakes and show that we do not tolerate violations of basic human rights," Perdue said in a statement. "We must provide meaningful assistance to victims, so I am including this funding in my budget."

The Eugenics Compensation Task Force in January said that people sterilized against their will under the Eugenics program should each be paid $50,000. The task force recommended that the money go to verified, living victims, including those who are alive now but may die before lawmakers approve any compensation. 

From 1929 to 1974, more than 7,600 people in North Carolina were surgically rendered unable to reproduce under state laws and rules that targeted people deemed unfit to be parents. They included epileptics, those considered mentally defective and many who were simply poor.

Edwin Black, an author who has studied state-sponsored sterilization programs that came before Nazi Germany adopted the practice, was scheduled to speak Wednesday at the General Assembly in Raleigh and later in the Research Triangle Park at events co-sponsored by Campbell University's law school.

He's authored a history of the eugenics movement in America.

Janice Black, who was sterilized as a teenager, says there isn't much North Carolina can do to apologize for what happened to her.

"No amount of money is going to repay back what's been taken from me," said Black.

State Eugenics Task Force chair Laura Gerald says she knows it's hard to put a number on the pain caused by the sterilization program, but said she hopes compensation can recognize the state's mistake and help victims.

"Compensation also serves a collective purpose to the state and sends a clear message that we in North Carolina are a people who pay for our mistakes," Gerald said. "We do not tolerate bureaucracies that trample on basic human rights."

A task force last year said 1,500 to 2,000 of those victims were still alive, and the state Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation confirmed Wednesday that it has verified 132 victims.

Lenoir County continues to have the highest number of verifications with 19 matches to N.C. Eugenics Board records. Mecklenberg County, which had the highest number of procedures in the state, has 12 verified living victims. Wake County ranks third in the state with 11 verified victims.