Panel Recommends Counseling For Sterilization Survivors
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 25, 2003
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA--The state of North Carolina should provide counseling and medical benefits for its residents who were forcibly sterilized during the last century, a panel decided Thursday.
But the Eugenics Study Committee, appointed in February by Governor Mike Easley, did not say whether they should be paid cash.
"There's no price tag for the damage that was done," said Stan Slawinski of the state Department of Health and Human Services. "How does one set parameters around that?"
North Carolina was the third state within the last year to formally apologize for sterilizing its citizens. It is the first to look at how to help those who are still alive to recover.
"The difficulty is we have nothing to measure against because no other state has done this," Slawinski said.
Another difficulty is the fact that the state does not know which subjects may have approved their own sterilizations and which did not. One option being considered would be for the state to advertise that it's looking for people who were forcibly sterilized. They could then request to see their own records and ask to appear before a special panel that would determine how the person should be compensated.
Still, such compensation may not gain popular support while the state is in a financial crisis.
More than 7,600 North Carolinians were sterilized between 1929 and 1974 under the state's eugenics law that was finally repealed just one week ago. Most of those who were operated upon had mental retardation or mental illness. By the end of the 1960s, more than 60 percent of those sterilized were black and 99 percent were female -- some as young as 10 years of age.
Eugenics was based on the racist belief that society would be improved by keeping "undesirables" from having children. Thirty-three states and two Canadian provinces legally sterilized an estimated 66,000 people. American eugenics lost popularity after the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945. In North Carolina, however, almost four-fifths of the state's sterilizations took place after World War II.
The committee is expected to give its final recommendations next month.
"Against Their Will--North Carolina's Sterilization Program" (Winston-Salem Journal)
"North Carolina's Eugenics Past" (Inclusion Daily Express)