UnJust: North Carolina Reneges on Promised Compensation to Forced Sterilization Victims

June 22, 2012  |  

In January, victims of North Carolina’s 50-yearlong history of involuntary sterilization were finally feeling like they would have some closure. A task force voted to pay each of the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 living victims of the heinous practice $50,000 as some sort of penance for the mental, physical and emotional toil they endured, but now the Republican Senate has stalled the effort by rejecting the proposal outright.

State Sen. Don East (R) told the Associated Press:

“You just can’t rewrite history. It was a sorry time in this country. I’m so sorry it happened, but throwing money don’t change it, don’t make it go away. It still happened.”

Looks like it’s still a sorry time in North Carolina. Of course, money doesn’t change what happened but it’s at least some sort of compensation, and honestly a way to make the state hurt just like the estimated 7,600 male and female North Carolinians who were sterilized under the authorization of the North Carolina Eugenics Board between 1929 and 1974, according to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, suffered. Of course, the senate doesn’t see it that way.

“If you could lay the issue to rest, it might be one thing. But I’m not so sure it would lay the issue at rest because if you start compensating people who have been ‘victimized’ by past history, I don’t know where that would end,” Sen. Austin Allran (R) also told the AP.

N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation executive director Charmaine Fuller Cooper told the News & Observer that the victims are now devastated:

“Even though they are 80-, 90-years-old, they remember it vividly. They had to reopen those old wounds. We have had people come forward and relive those memories and have had people tell their families and nothing happens. They’re angry and they have justification in how they feel.”

When the news first hit that the victims were getting $50,000 most felt like even that wasn’t enough, but to hear now that victims won’t get anything is too much. Elaine Riddick, 57, who was sterilized at 13 after she was raped and gave birth to a son, has become the major face of this effort and she said she won’t let this roadblock stop her.

“We’ve given North Carolina a chance to address their wrongs,” she said. “There is a class action suit as we speak.”

Hopefully they succeed on that front.

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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