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Victims of forced sterilization in North Carolina to receive $10 million

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

North Carolina lawmakers, in a landmark decision passed a budget that included $10 million to compensate the state's victims of forced sterilization. From 1929 to 1974, North Carolina forcibly sterilized thousands of men, women and children, usually without their consent. The program was a misguided attempt at eugenics where it was believed that poverty, promiscuity and alcoholism were inherited traits. 
 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "There were challenges, we had to better educate our members -- and then of course, we had to work through the fiscal challenges -- but at the end of the day, what we've done is something truly historic," state House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, told NBC News.

One of the victims of the program, Elaine Riddick said that she was raped and impregnated at 13 years old. After giving birth to her baby son Tony, she was sterilized against her will. "People need to know that injustice was done towards them and they need to be compensated for that," Riddick said, profiled by "NBC News Rock Center with Brian Williams" in November of 2011.

Thousands of North Carolinians were sterilized under the state's now defunct eugenics program. Survivors such as Elaine Riddick are now demanding answers and compensation from the government.

A formidable advocate for her fellow victims, Riddick has pressed North Carolina to make amends, but multiple attempts at compensation have not yet arrived.

Claiming she was amazed to learn of North Carolina's plans to compensate victims, Riddick declared "I tip my hat to North Carolina, finally they came to their senses and decided to do what's right." But according to her, the money is not enough. 

"You can't put a price on someone taking your womb or castrating you, it's humiliating," Riddick said.

North Carolina became one of the first states to publically apologize in 2002 for practicing eugenics. It's estimated that 7,600 people were sterilized in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, only 177 living victims have been verified to date.

Of those 177, only 48 of the surviving victims of North Carolina's now shuttered eugenics program have come forward and been matched to state records. The North Carolina Institute for Sterilization Victims Foundation is tasked with finding the thousands of survivors believed to still be alive.

The $10 million appropriated for eugenics victims will be distributed equally among them starting in 2015 in an effort to give more victims the opportunity to come forward and be authenticated.

If a victim dies, their portion will move to their estate.

"I hope this provides some closure to what I believe is one of the darkest chapters in the state's history," Tillis said.

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