North Carolina Survivors of Eugenic Sterilization are Passed Over Again

Posted by Jessica Cussins June 28, 2012
Biopolitical Times
Protest against eugenic<br> 
sterilizations, circa 1971

Monetary compensation for North Carolinians who were forcibly sterilized by the state was denied last week by the state Senate. Victims and advocates have been struggling for recognition and compensation for nearly a decade, but despite support from Governor Bev Perdue and a bipartisan majority in the state’s House of Representatives, the Senate denied the $50,000 payments that had been proposed for the 146 living victims who have been verified. (Verification of another 200 is pending.)

Of the 32 US states with eugenic sterilization laws on their books during the twentieth century, North Carolina had one of the most extensive and long-lasting programs. Between 1933 and 1974, it sterilized about 7,600 people who were considered epileptic, “feeble-minded,” or too poor.

But North Carolina was also the first state to offer more than just an apology for these abuses. It set up the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation in 2010, and was on track to provide sizeable monetary compensation to those who came forward. The decision by the Senate represents not merely a lack of action, but a step backwards: the Foundation will be forced to close its doors by the end of the month.

There is no way to give back what is taken from those who are forcibly sterilized, or to put a price tag on the loss. Despite the deep disappointment of the decision in North Carolina, let’s hope that the systematic avoidance of America’s eugenic history is a route that is no longer viable.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: