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N.C. Opinions: Wilmington

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N.C. finally makes amends for appalling sterilizations

From an editorial published in the Wilmington Star News on Thursday:

Over the course of five decades, the state sterilized 7,600 people deemed to be feeble-minded, promiscuous, or simply because they were poor. They can never be adequately compensated for what was taken from them, but the N.C. General Assembly has taken a giant step toward making amends.

After years of discussion the state Senate has finally agreed to a compromise that sets a $10 million cap on total payments to victims of the long-defunct eugenics program. It falls short of the more generous provision approved by the state House, which would have allotted $50,000 to every confirmed victim.

So far, 168 people have been verified as subjects of this cruel social experiment. A year ago, advocates estimated that about 2,000 of the people forcibly sterilized under the program were still alive. Assuming that many living victims could be verified, the payout would be small – $5,000 apiece, a tenth of the original proposal; if only half that many are found, the individual compensation would increase to $10,000.

As appalling as it was, the state has rejected numerous calls over several decades to compensate victims of the inhumane eugenics program. Until now, that is.

Much credit goes to House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, who pledged during his first term as speaker that he would try to push through a bill to compensate those who were sterilized involuntarily under the program. Finally, as part of a compromise on the state budget, the Senate went along with a smaller version of the original proposal.

It isn’t nearly enough, but it is considerably more than North Carolina has ever done. And that means something.

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