A law passed last year calls for $10 million to be split among
those who were stripped of their ability to have children as part of
a state-sanctioned program that targeted the poor, sick and
feebleminded as recently as the 1970s.
North Carolina is the first state to offer compensation to victims
who were involuntarily sterilized or castrated after being deemed
unfit to reproduce. A lawmaker who sponsored the bipartisan measure
said it was important to quickly get the money out to those injured
by the state.
Republican state Representative Paul Stam, the House Speaker Pro
Tempore, said he opposed extending the year-long period for filing
claims past the deadline next Monday.
"Any additional people who apply just take money from other people
in the pot," Stam said. "My guess is there are a certain number of
people who are trying to move on."
But with no money budgeted to spread word of the payments, some fear
there will be victims who miss the chance to file a claim by the
"It would really help if it were extended by six months," said
Elizabeth Haddix, staff attorney at the University of North
Carolina's Center for Civil Rights, which held clinics to help
victims. "The program itself would have more integrity if there were
some outreach and some coordination."
No one knows how many victims are living. As of June 15, 574 claim
forms had been filed with the Office of Justice for Sterilization
Victims, said spokesman Chris Mears.
The number is far short of the estimated 1,300 to 1,800 possible
living victims in the state, but higher than the 176 living victims
verified as of early 2013 by a foundation charged with identifying
them prior to the bill's passage.
Some victims have died since lawmakers approved the compensation
package, adding to the sense of urgency to get claims certified and
payments handed out, Mears said.
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He said the state office sent more than 1,000 pieces of direct mail
and made hundreds of phone calls to possible victims but did not buy
radio or television ads due to the lack of funds for promotion.
More than 30 U.S. states had eugenics programs during the height of
the movement aimed at ridding the population of characteristics
considered unfit by its proponents.
North Carolina was the only state that gave social workers the power
to petition for members of the public to be sterilized. The state
sterilized approximately 7,600 people, mostly women, between 1929
Unlike most states that ended their programs after World War Two,
North Carolina expanded its effort and carried out the majority of
the procedures after 1945, leaving the state with more living
victims as a result.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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