Eugenics compensation high on NCGA agenda

Elnora Mills, one of 118 verified, living victims of the state’s former Eugenics Board program, holds Scooter, one of her two dogs, outside of her home in Leland.

Elnora Mills’ two Chihuahuas Baby and Scooter are like the children she never had, and never could.

Now 61 and living in a rural part of Brunswick County, she wanted a son and a daughter and grandkids, but an operation in 1967 ended that possibility.

Mills said she is one of the victims of the state’s former N.C. Eugenics Board program, which sterilized state residents many against their will from all 100 counties between 1929 and 1974. In all, nearly 7,600 people were stripped of their ability to have children.

“I could never have no grandkids around me or nothing,” Mills said in a recent phone interview. “And it’s a hurtin’ feeling.”

The eugenics issue is again in the spotlight as the N.C. General Assembly convened its short lawmaking session this week. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem poised to pass legislation this year to compensate the victims, nearly 40 years after the program ended.

To date, 132 victims in 51 counties have been matched to Eugenics Board records. Of those, 118 are still alive, according to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. There are two verified victims from New Hanover County and one each from Brunswick and Pender.

Gov. Beverly Perdue’s proposed budget for 2012-2013 includes $10.3 million to make $50,000, tax-free payments to each of the victims, including Mills. Lela Dunston, a former Wilmington resident who now lives in Raleigh, is also a verified victim.

“We cannot change the terrible things that happened to so many of our most vulnerable citizens, but we can take responsibility for our state’s mistakes and show that we do not tolerate violations of basic human rights,” the Democrat Perdue said in a recent prepared statement.

Meanwhile, among the first bills filed in the House and Senate this week were bills to compensate eugenics victims. The N.C. Industrial Commission would determine whether a claimant is eligible for a payment. A public hearing has been scheduled on the House bill at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Raleigh.

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Eugenics compensation high on NCGA agenda

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