RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - More people may have been forcibly sterilized in North Carolina than originally estimated. A Charlotte-area lawmaker is proposing compensation for people who were involuntarily sterilized by orders of their county, and not necessarily by the now-defunct Eugenics Board.
Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenberg) introduced a bill (SB 532) to have victims forcibly sterilized under orders of a county eligible under the state's Eugenics Compensation Program. The Eugenics Program in North Carolina ran from 1929 to 1974, when the state ordered mandatory sterilization of thousands of individuals, many considered feeble-minded or mentally retarded by the Eugenics Board. Estimated say more than 7,600 people were forcibly sterilized before the program ended.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission confirmed 220 victims of state-ordered sterilization, and in October 2014 sent checks of $20,000 to those individuals. Those victims are due to receive a second compensation payment in 2015, after appeals are decided on any pending claims. Sen. Jackson's bill would make victims sterilized under a county's authority eligible to receive a payment at that time.
“There are victims who were sterilized on order of the county, working in coordination with the state,” Sen. Jackson said. “People came to me with some instances of this taking place. They applied to the Industrial Commission and were turned down.”
Jackson estimated there to be less than 100 victims in this situation.
Bob Bollinger, an attorney in Charlotte, is representing several of these victims.
“We found quite a few people got sterilized at the instigation of the local welfare department, but they had no paperwork with the (state) Eugenics Board,” said Bollinger.
Bollinger recounted one case of a 28-year-old woman with four children. She was receiving welfare after her husband had left the family. The local welfare department said she needed to be sterilized. According to Bollinger, officials even sent a worker to take the woman to the hospital for the procedure. “These are the kind of cases that Sen. Jackson's amendment is trying to help,” said Bollinger.
Sen. Jackson said getting lawmakers in the General Assembly to support and pass his bill will be a difficult task. “Many (lawmakers) are reluctant to revisit this issue because of how heated it became last time,” said Sen. Jackson, who is serving his first full term after being selected in 2014 to serve out the remainder of Sen. Dan Clodfelter's term. “This is something that you have to rally support for. This will take some time.”
To read Senate Bill 532 click here: