NC Panel recommends $50K for sterilization victims

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A North Carolina Task force, created in 2011 by Gov. Bev. Purdue, recommended January 10 that living victims of the state’s sterilization program should receive $50,000 each in compensation.

If the state legislature approves the recommendations, North Carolina will become the first state to compensate victims of the since-discredited practice.

An estimated 2,000 victims of the state’s program, most of which were people with disabilities, are believed to still be alive.

Compensation “sends a clear message that we in North Carolina are people who pay for our mistakes and that we do not tolerate bureaucracies that trample on basic human rights,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, chairman of the five-person panel, in an Associated Press article.

North Carolina was home to the nation’s most extensive post-World War II program. While the practice was common for much of the 20th century and justified as a measure to eliminate unfavorable characteristics in the gene pool and reduce welfare costs, most states ended their sterilization programs following revelations regarding the horrors of the Nazi’s far reaching eugenics program.In contrast, North Carolina sterilized significantly more people after the war, peaking in the 1950s, and continuing the practice until 1974 with the closure of the North Carolina Eugenics Board.Both Gov. Purdue and the state house speaker have already came forward in favor of the panel’s recommendations. Though the panel has bipartisan support in the state legislature, the program’s cost could became an issue, as the program could cost the state as much as $100 million.

In July, about a dozen sterilization victims spoke out about their experiences to the panel. The panel originally suggested providing $20,000 in compensation to each victims. The victims argued that the figure was too low and the figure increased.

Though some sterilization victims thought the compensation was too low, others understood the compromise.

“I thought they should’ve placed a little more value on it. But at some point they’ve got to move on and try to get this done,” said Sadie Long, guardian of Janice Black, a Charlotte resident who was sterilized in 1971, in an article in the Raleigh News & Observer.

For some victims, such as Elaine Riddick, who was sterilized after a rape left her pregnant at 13, the state can never begin to fully compensate her.

“They took away something from me that was so valuable that I can never get back,” she told the New York Times.

Under the task force’s recommendations, victims will have three years to come forward to seek compensation.

It is estimated that more than 60,000 people were sterilized during the 20th century in the U.S., including more than 7,600 people between 1929 and 1974 in North Carolina.