North carolina sterilization task force
"I'm writing you with hopes that you will understand the pain, hurt and emptiness I still feel inside," she read.
"A social worker convinced my mom to sign for me to undergo an operation that would prevent me from getting pregnant, not knowing all the while that I was being set up to be sterilized like I was some kind of animal."
Dozens of North Carolina citizens spoke at the public hearing against the state's five-decade forced sterilization program. The listening session, held by the governor's task force, gave victims the opportunity to share their experiences with a state task force charged with recommending compensation for victims and their families.
Eugenics is the process of selectively breeding humans and animals to rid the population of "unfit" characteristics. In 1933, North Carolina passed a revised eugenics law. The law established the North Carolina Eugenics Board, which largely targeted low-income females for sterilization procedures.
Those speaking at the hearing said social workers pressured men and women to undergo sterilization and in some cases lied and said the procedures were reversible.
After World War II, most states abolished their eugenics programs when it became clear that Nazi's used similar practices to further their ideals of racial purity. But the number of sterilizations in North Carolina peaked between 1950-1960, according to state records. Though the eugenics board was abolished in 1977, the law remained a general statute until 2003.
Roughly 3,000 of the 7,600 citizens who were sterilized are still alive. Friends and family members of those sterilized addressed the task force on behalf of their loved ones who could not be present.
In 2003, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue established the Governor's Eugenics Compensation Task Force to research and provide recommendations for possible compensation for victims. The task force has an August 1 deadline to submit a proposal to the governor.
State representatives considered offering $50,000 in compensation to victims, but legislators deemed the amount too high. Now they are considering whether to offer $20,000 or to pay for medical services.
At least seven other states have issued formal apologies for similar eugenics programs. So far, only North Carolina has considered establishing a program to compensate individual victims.