May 18, 2012

North Carolina Gets Closer to Compensation for Eugenics Victims

There are more developments in North Carolina as the state attempts to compensate for the eugenics program that it maintained from 1933 until the 1970’s, in which individuals were ordered to undergo forced sterilization. To date, the Eugenics Compensation Task Force has convened, held hearings, and issued recommendations for payments of $50,000 to victims of the forced sterilizations (see final report here). Now the legislature is weighing in to implement such a payment scheme. A bill, H.B. 947, has now been introduced, noting in its preface that “the General Assembly wishes to make restitution for injustices suffered and unreasonable hardships endured by the asexualization or sterilization of individuals at the direction of the State between 1933 and 1974.” Of the over 7,000 victims in the state, it has been estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 of the victims may still be alive. Under the legislation, the payments would not be subject to taxes nor counted against other government benefits. Hearings on the legislation will be held next week. If the payment scheme is finally approved, it would make North Carolina the first state to provide compensation to the victims of its eugenic sterilization program. All of this occurs, however, against a backdrop of eugenics programs that were adopted by at least 30 states during the early 20th century. In a modern illustration of linking official benefits to reproductive status, Sweden maintains a law requiring transgendered individuals to be sterilized before their gender identity will be recognized by the government; this has been widely opposed but is still the current policy.

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