$50,000 Payday May be on the Way for Sterilization Victims

January 10, 2012  |  

In 2002, the state of North Carolina issued a formal apology to victims of its 50-year-long practice of involuntary sterilization. Now, 10 years later, payday may finally be coming for these women.

A task force voted today to pay $50,000 in compensation to verified, living victims of the horrible practice, including those who may pass away before legislators are able to pass the law. So far, 72 of the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 living victims have been verified—bringing the total compensation amount to about $100 million. Survivors will have three years to apply for payments from the time a measure approving them goes into effect.

“We have repeatedly acknowledged and stated as a task force that no amount of money can adequately pay for the harm done to these citizens,” says panel chairwoman Laura Gerald. “We are not attempting through our work to place a value on anyone’s life. However, we are attempting to achieve a level of financial compensation and other services that can provide meaningful assistance to survivors.

“Compensation also serves a collective purpose for the state and sends a clear message that we in North Carolina are people who pay for our mistakes and that we do not tolerate bureaucracies that trample on basic human rights.”

Previously, the panel was debating on an amount somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000 which victims argued was too low. Now, sufferers are just grateful to see an end in sight.

“I just want it to be over,” says 57-year-old Elaine Riddick, who was sterilized at 13 after she was raped and gave birth to a son. “You can’t change anything. You just let go and let God.”

Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County says the state should agree next year to pay victims and wants to form a legislative committee to work out details so something can be voted upon during the Legislature’s budget-adjusting session in May. We’re crossing our fingers that this gets passed.

Do you think $50,000 is appropriate compensation for these women?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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