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Panel Says N.C. Should Pay $50K To Victims Of Forced Sterilization

The victims of a North Carolina program that forcibly sterilized thousands of people should receive $50,000 in compensation, a task force said Tuesday. The AP writes that this is first time, the state tries to make up for a eugenics program that ran from the 1930s until 1977.

Before any payments are made, however, the state Legislature must approve the panel's recommendation.

The AP reports:

"The panel recommended that the money go to verified, living victims, including those who are alive now but may die before the lawmakers approve any compensation. The panel had discussed amounts between $20,000 and $50,000 per person.

"A task force report last year said 1,500 to 2,000 of those victims were still alive, and the state has verified 72 victims. If the estimate is correct, the payments could total around $100 milllion. Survivors will have three years to apply for payments from the time a measure approving them goes into effect.

"Before the vote, chairwoman Laura Gerald said the task force was seeking a balance between the victims' needs and political reality, noting that 'compensation has been on the table now for nearly 10 years, but the state has lacked the political will to do anything other than offer an apology.'"

If you're interested in some background on this story, back in September, the Charlotte Observersiftedthrough previously sealed records of the eugenics program that tell the stories of Mecklenburg County residents. The records provide insight into the the reasoning behind sterilization. As the paper reports, the records described the victims in quick paragraphs like these:

"A chronic runaway who has hit puberty at 12:She should be protected as soon as possible from the consequences of actions over which she appears to have no control.

"A woman, 24, pregnant with an out-of-wedlock child: This girl is sexually promiscuous and a pauper.

"A woman, 35, deserted by her husband years before, who has just given birth to her ninth child: She is unable to provide the barest necessities for them or to give them minimum supervision and care."

All Things Considered also aired a story about the program in December.

Today, the AP spoke to Elaine Riddick, a 57-year-old woman who was sterilized when she was 14, after giving birth to a son who was product of a rape.

"I just want it to be over," she told the AP. "You can't change anything. You just let go and let God."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.