Reparations for Eugenics Victims Stall in North Carolina

Posted by Jesse Reynolds January 5, 2010
Biopolitical Times
North Carolina was the first, and thus far is the only, state to offer more than words to victims of state-sponsored eugenics programs of the twentieth century. The Winston-Salem Journal, whose quality investigative reporting helped spur state action in the first place, reports that there's been negligible progress in issuing the allocated reparations:
State money that was allocated during the summer for the benefit of sterilization victims still has not been spent, and no substantive progress has been made on a special foundation that is supposed to be established.

The General Assembly included $250,000 in the 2009-10 state budget to set up the foundation, which eventually could be used to pay financial reparations to surviving victims of a state-sponsored eugenics program that lasted from 1929 into the 1970s.

It's a small amount of money but a historically significant act - it was the first time that the legislature took a formal step toward reparations for sterilization victims. Two of the state's biggest advocates for such reparations are state Reps. Larry Womble and Earline Parmon, Democrats from Winston-Salem.

Although the legislature authorized the money, it is now midway through the budget year and nothing of substance has been done. "There's not an office. There's not a hiring. It's all still in progress," said Jill Lucas, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Administration, where the foundation will be housed....

More than 7,600 people were medically sterilized over the course of the eugenics program, usually because they were deemed to be mentally. disabled or sexually promiscuous. The state has estimated that about 2,800 victims are still alive, but it would be difficult to track them all down. [State Rep.. Larry] Womble has called for giving each living victim a reparation of $20,000 at a potential cost to the state of $56 million.
The Journal's editors also pushed for action on the payments in a strongly worded editorial:

In 2010, North Carolina should finally live up to the promises of help it has made for more than six years to the victims of this state's forced-sterilization program. Little has been done, even though the legislature approved a $250,000 allocation this past summer to set up a foundation to study compensation for them. Gov. Bev Perdue should follow through on her campaign promise to help these victims....

The colossal injustice of this program, which was fueled by self-righteousness and bigotry, shamed our proud state. We should all feel obligated to bring some measure of comfort to the victims.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: