Eugenics victims move closer to getting compensatio

RALEIGH The tears of eugenics victims and their weakened champion’s return to Raleigh in a wheelchair made the House committee vote endorsing compensation for people sterilized under the auspices of a government board more emotional than a run-of-the-mill debate on a bill.

The meeting room was nearly quiet Tuesday afternoon as Rep. Larry Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat, urged the House Judiciary committee to endorse $50,000 payments for eugenics victims as a moral right. The committee approved the bill to applause from the audience, and it now moves to the House budget committee.

From 1933 to 1974, a board created by the legislature ordered that “mentally diseased, feeble-minded or epileptic” people be sterilized. The board also ordered sterilized people who were poor or who were thought likely to have disabled children. Other states had eugenics programs, but North Carolina’s was one of the most robust. The board authorized the sterilization of about 7,600 people. About 1,500 to 2,000 are thought to still be alive.

Womble has been fighting for compensation for victims for 11 years. He had to make a special effort to make it to Raleigh on Tuesday. He was gravely injured in a car accident last year that killed another driver. Womble has lost weight, his voice is weaker, and his legs are elevated in the wheelchair he uses.

“This is not a perfect bill,” Womble started, almost in a whisper, “but it is a bill that separates North Carolina from the rest of the world.”

Under the bill, people verified by a state Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims and determined eligible by the Industrial Commission would each receive $50,000.

The N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation has identified 132 people as being sterilized under the board’s auspices, and 118 are still living, said foundation executive director Charmaine Fuller Cooper.

The bill sets a Dec. 31, 2015, deadline for filing a claim. People alive as of March 1, 2010, would be eligible.

Womble urged unanimous support from the committee.

“You will be on the side of right,” Womble said.


Eugenics victims move closer to getting compensatio

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