Eugenics verification program suspended

Published 11:14 am Friday, June 22, 2012

RALEIGH – Without funding the process cannot continue.

Due to the joint budget agreement to exclude funding for compensation for victims of the state’s former Eugenics Board program, as well as continuation funding for operation of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, the Foundation has suspended intake of new victim verification requests.

The House approved legislation earlier this month that reflected Gov. Bev Perdue’s call to pay $50,000 lump sum compensation to living victims, as well as funding for the Foundation’s continued operation and expanded outreach. House Speaker Thom Tillis restated his personal support for House Bill 947, but added: “There is a very strong message from the Senate that they are not prepared to take it up this year.”

Foundation Executive Director Charmaine Fuller Cooper said the Foundation must curtail intake requests because its current operational funding is scheduled to expire on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Other operational matters will be addressed soon.

The Foundation confirmed an increase in the number of verified victims, which counts 161 individuals in 57 counties, including 146 living victims. Fuller Cooper said the increase reflects cases of multiple siblings and entire families being sterilized. One of those victims resides in Hertford County, where 106 sterilization procedures (the 10th highest in the state) were performed during the peak years of the program (1946-1968).

Cooper noted that time is not on the side of aging victims. An updated estimate from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics this month revised down the number of likely living victims from about 1,500 to 2,000 to about 1,350 to 1,800.

As of June 20, Lenoir County continues to have the highest number of verifications with 24 matches to N.C. Eugenics Board records. Mecklenburg, which had the highest number of procedures of any North Carolina county, follows with 13 verifications, then Wake with 11.

The N.C. Eugenics Board implemented a program of involuntary sterilization that took place in all 100 counties between 1929 and 1974. By the end of the program, nearly 7,600 documented people were sterilized.