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N.C. Governor Approves Reparation Package For State's Eugenics Victims;
Some Say It Is Not Enough

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 30, 2003

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA--Last month, Governor Mike Easley approved a number of measures designed to make amends to North Carolina residents who were sterilized under the state's eugenics laws during the 20th century.

The measures were recommended by a committee Easley set up earlier this year to study the state's role in ordering the operations performed on 7,600 residents, most considered to have disabilities. They include education benefits through the University of North Carolina, access to a health care fund, and a way to help victims to gain access to their medical records. Easley also approved the panel's recommendation for a memorial to those who were sterilized and including information about the eugenics program in the state's history curriculum. Workers in North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services will also be required to take an ethics course.

In December 2002, Easley became the third governor to formally apologize for a state's eugenics past, and the first to establish a committee to look into compensating its victims.

Between 1907 and 1979, an estimated 65,000 Americans were documented to have been surgically sterilized based on the false science of eugenics, which sought to improve society through "selective breeding". Thirty-three states and two Canadian provinces had laws making such surgeries legal or mandatory.

While most of those sterilized in North Carolina had disabilities, a significant number were not. Many were labeled "feeble-minded", a subjective, catch-all term, with no testing or no more than a few minutes observation by social workers. Some, like Annie Buelin and Ernestine Moore, were forced to go through the surgery so their mothers could continue to receive welfare benefits. Many were not told the truth about their operations.

While they are glad the governor has officially recognized the wrongs done by the state, many victims and their advocates are angry at Easley's decision to sign the measures without informing victims or the public of his plans. Some feel Easley moved quickly and quietly to avoid debate and discussion regarding financial compensation.

'That's all they're offering?' asked Ernestine Moore, who was sterilized in 1965 at age 14.

Moore gave permission for the surgery, when her first and only child was born, but only after social workers told her they would cut her mother from welfare and take her newborn away from her.

"I'm not satisfied with that," Moore said of Easley's package. "They really messed up my life."

The General Assembly would have to approve special funds for some of Easley's measures. Some lawmakers have already balked at the idea with prospects of a tight budget and recovery costs from Hurricane Isabel.

Related articles:
"Easley approves compensation for people sterilized by state" (News & Observer)
"Making Amends" (Winston-Salem Journal)
"Offer 'Too Little Too Late" (Winston-Salem Journal)
"Suggestions abound -- wheels turning slowly" (Winston-Salem Journal)

Related resource:
Against Their Will: North Carolina's Sterilization Program (Series by Winston-Salem Journal)


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