North Carolina Considers Payments to Sterilization Victims

Victims of the state's eugenics program were targeted for being poor, "feebleminded," "promiscuous" or black. There's bipartisan support for a proposal to pay them $20,000 each.

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eugenics
Delores Marks' mother was sterilized in North Carolina's eugenics programs. (Associated Press)

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that there's bipartisan support in North Carolina for compensating thousands of men and women who were sterilized either against their will or with inadequate consent in one of the country's largest state eugenics programs.

A proposal to pay as many as 3,000 sterilized people $20,000 each has long been supported by state Democrats, but the idea gained momentum recently when it was endorsed by high-ranking Republicans who believe the sterilization was an infringement on individual rights. (We'd say that's putting it mildly.)

The eugenics movement called for sterilizing some Americans who were deemed socially or intellectually unfit. In the 1940s through the mid-1950s, the eugenics board commonly approved the sterilization of poor white women, often deemed "feebleminded" and sometimes described as promiscuous, according to Charmaine Fuller Cooper, executive director of the state-funded N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. In the late 1950s and through the 1960s, an increasing number of those sterilized were black women.

"Most of the time, we're thinking from the neck up, but this one started with me in the stomach, the intuition of it all," said Republican Rep. Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem, the speaker pro tem of the House.

Unfortunately, despite the burgeoning consensus that sterilization victims deserve compensation, North Carolina's budget troubles make it unlikely that the aging victims will actually see payments anytime soon.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

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