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NC Sterilization Victims Deserve $50,000, Panel Says

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on January 12, 2012 6:01 AM

North Carolina's sterilization law forced medical procedures on thousands of U.S. citizens decades ago. An assembled task force has now declared that victims should receive $50,000 each.

This could amount to a total payout of around $100 million. The compensation will need to be approved by the state legislature.

North Carolina would be the first to offer financial compensation to individuals harmed by the state eugenics program.

Similar programs were implemented in many different states. The eugenics movement started in the early 1900s. It aimed to strengthen the gene pool. Individuals considered "defective" were targeted under the laws. They were sterilized so they would not have children.

Seven states have publicly apologized, including North Carolina, according to CNN.

Around 7,600 victims were sterilized in North Carolina alone. The state's laws negatively impacted epileptics and individuals with mental health issues. Many of the individuals were poor black women, reports the AP.

The $50,000 compensation per person seems small. But the aggregate bill is high. Paying a total of $100 million to the survivors is a "large sum" for the state, according to Republican Senator Richard Stevens to the AP.

The payout will also include a three-year statute of limitations. Victims will need to come forward soon. The task force has also recommended more aggressive forms of outreach. It's estimated that there are about 1,500 living victims today.

So far the state has only been able to verify 72 individuals, according to the AP.

Many seem are optimistic that the compensation will pass through the legislature. A few individuals impacted by North Carolina's sterilization laws have come forward. Some indicate that they feel the damages award should be expanded to estates or decedents. It's currently limited to living victims.

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