NC House approves Eugenics compensation

Published 11:09 am Friday, June 8, 2012

RALEIGH –A bill to compensate victims of the state’s former Eugenics Board program was passed Tuesday (June 5) by House members and now advances to the Senate.

The House version of the proposed legislation includes Gov. Bev Perdue’s call to pay $50,000 lump sum compensation to living victims, as well as fund continuation of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, which provides services to victims.

Both local House representatives from the Roanoke-Chowan area – Annie Mobley of District 5 and Michael Wray of District 27 – voted in favor of the bill.

“I thank the House for passing this measure with bipartisan support,” Gov. Perdue said. “It is time for the State of North Carolina to show leadership and take responsibility for what was done to our own people.  I urge the Senate to take this bill up soon.”

Gov. Perdue established the Sterilization Victims Foundation in March 2010, as well as the Eugenics Compensation Task Force, whose report formed the core of her budget recommendations.

Legislators spoke emotionally about the subject, expressing both concern for victims and for allocating a $10 million fund for compensation during a difficult budget year. An amendment to reduce the payment from $50,000 to $20,000 was opposed by House Leader Paul Stam and failed.

“It is impossible to overstate the historical significance of the action taken today in the North Carolina House of Representatives,” said House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg). “With the bipartisan vote of 86 House members, our state took a bold step toward providing a small amount of justice for the victims of a horrific program.  North Carolina is poised to become the first state in the nation to compensate victims of a state-operated eugenics program, and that is a distinction to be proud of.  Today’s vote has been long overdue, and I congratulate everyone who had a role in this process.  Today’s vote puts North Carolina on the doorstep of history.”

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said Foundation Executive Director Charmaine Fuller Cooper. “The horrors of history can never be changed. But, today’s bipartisan vote showed that we can learn from history and ensure that past horrors are not repeated.”

Currently, 132 individuals, one of which resides in Bertie County, have been verified by the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, of which 118 (about 90 percent) are living. More verification requests are being researched with assistance from State Archivists as it is believed that as many as 2,000 sterilization victims are still alive.

According to the North Carolina Department of Administration website, from 1929 until 1974 an estimated 7,600 North Carolinians, women and men, many of whom were poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick or disabled, were sterilized by choice, force or coercion under the authorization of the North Carolina Eugenics Board program. That program made the determination that thousands of North Carolinians were “not fit to reproduce” and ordered they undergo the sterilization process. A 1937 state law was approved, which authorized the temporary admission of those “unfit individuals” into state hospitals for the purpose of sterilization.

Each county in the state had sterilization victims, according to a map that was part of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation’s website. During the Eugenics Board program’s peak years of June 1946 until June 1968, a total of 5,368 sterilizations were performed. Several hundred more victims were sterilized between 1968 and 1974 when the program ceased operations.

According to the map, of the Roanoke-Chowan area counties where local citizens were subject to undergo involuntary sterilization, Hertford County topped that list with 106 procedures during the peak years of 1946 to 1968. Forty-four Bertie County residents suffered that fate; as did 41 in Gates and 37 in Northampton.

The Sterilization Victims Foundation continues to assist individuals who believe that they or someone they know may have been affected by the N.C. Eugenics Boards program. For information, call toll-free hotline 877-550-6013 (or 919-807-4270) for information, or visit its website: