RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation continues to seek people who were involuntarily sterilized by the state, but progress has been slow.
The State Center for Health Statistics estimates that as many as 2,000 victims may still be alive, but the foundation has been able to verify only 111 so far.
Nearly 7,600 residents across the state were sterilized between 1929 and 1974 with the approval of the N.C. Eugenics Board. The board authorized sterilizations due to illness, disability, economic status, perceived promiscuity and “feeblemindedness” for people as young as 10. North Carolina was the only state to allow social workers to petition to have someone sterilized.
The foundation is seeking people who were sterilized under the program as the state prepares to offer compensation.
Gov. Bev Perdue’s Eugenics Compensation Task Force recommended giving a tax-free payment of $50,000 and mental health services to victims verified by the foundation. Perdue has said she will include the compensation plan in the budget she submits this spring.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, has been working with Democrats Rep. Earline Parmon of Winston-Salem and Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham, as well as staff and scholars, on a compensation bill that they hope to introduce in the session beginning May 16, according to Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ spokesman.
The foundation continues to receive a large number of calls from residents seeking to determine if they or a family member were sterilized under the program, according to department spokeswoman Jill Warren Lucas. Whenever a news story appears about involuntary sterilization in North Carolina, “it rings a bell and makes a connection” with people who then remember something about a family member and call, Lucas said.