Sterilization victims hope for compensation from state - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Sterilization victims upset; version of state budget lacks funding to compensate them

Elnora Mills cries while sharing her story with us Elnora Mills cries while sharing her story with us

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Victims of forced sterilization hoping state lawmakers have a change of heart and fund a plan to compensate those who had their ability to bear children taken away by the North Carolina Eugenics program.

Several thousand people between 1933 and 1974 received surgeries that left them unable to reproduce. Up to 2,000 may be alive, although a state foundation so far has confirmed 118 are still living.

Some state leaders want to give victims $50,000 a piece to compensate them for what happened.

Lawmakers in the House approved money for the victims in its version of the budget but a version of the budget that passed a Senate committee did not include the funding.

Victims of the program are upset to learn about the move.

Elnora Mills, who shared her story in a special report, grew up in Brunswick County, and still lives in an area of Maco not far from her parent's home. She had a nervous breakdown in June of 1966 and spent one month in a psychiatric hospital. The following year, at the age of 16, Elnora had to go to the hospital for what records say was an appendectomy. During that same surgery, after Elnora's parents approved the state's order, doctors at New Hanover Memorial Hospital also sterilized her.

No one ever told Elnora about the sterilization at the time. It wasn't until 1969, when Elnora and her husband Buddy tried to have children that she found out. She learned during a doctor's appointment.

"A lot of people have children and I look at them and I wish I could have one," she said. "When I found out I couldn't have children, that hurt me."

Mills is upset that the senate did not include compensation for victims in its version of the budget.

She wishes that state leaders would put themselves in her shoes and reconsider funding the compensation.

"How would you feel not having children?" she asks. "Your heart would be torn apart."

We talked to state Senator Bill Rabon (R - NC Senate District 8) about this and he thinks it's best to have the eugenics issue handled separately, instead of being lumped in with what will likely be a partisan vote on the budget. When asked if he supported compensating victims, he said money isn't the only way to compensate them.

Rabon's challenger in the fall, Danny Hefner (D - candidate NC Senate District 8) is criticizing the Senate's budget plan.

"What other was can you compensate those who have lost their right to have children," he asked.

Hefner said he supports compensating victims of the program.

"I fully believe that the victims should be compensated,"he said. "How can you place a cost on not being able to have children when you have been mutilated by the state? $50,000 is a pitiful reimbursement for what was done."

We have calls into state Senator Thom Goolsby and David Rouzer; however, our calls haven't been returned yet.

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