From an editorial Sunday in the Fayetteville Observer:
The effort to compensate victims of this state’s eugenics program has hit wall after wall, even after a state law passed last summer offered reparations.
The program sterilized about 7,600 people considered “feeble-minded.” It began in 1929 and ended in 1974.
While lawmakers moved to compensate the victims and set aside a $10 million fund for those who qualified, only 213 of the 731 claims filed have been approved.
And now there’s a new glitch. Many of the forced sterilizations were ordered by county social-services departments, not by the state Eugenics Board. If it was a county decision, state officials say, then victims don’t qualify for state compensation.
Elizabeth Haddix, a lawyer with the UNC Center for Civil Rights, is representing 40 victims, 30 of them sterilized by counties. She advocates including all forced-sterilization victims in the compensation program. “It was a state statute,” she says, “and I’m sure these DSS workers just felt like they were following state policy.”
We hope the state Industrial Commission, which rules on the claims, will include all the victims, no matter who issued the sterilization orders.
The victims are aging, and many have already died. Justice needs to come soon.