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North Carolina Looking To Compensate Victims Of Forced Sterilization

Governor of North Carolina Beverly Perdue (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In 1967, 13-year-old Elaine Riddick was taken to the hospital to give birth to her son.  Riddick was living in Winfall, NC when she was raped by her neighbor, resulting in the pregnancy.  After waking up in the hospital, Riddick found her stomach wrapped in bandages with no explaination of what had happened.  6 years later, now married, Riddick was ready to have another child, but was unsuccessful.  Now living in New York, Riddick went to the doctor to find that she had been sterilized after giving birth the first time.  According to records, a 5-person eugenics board in Raleigh, NC had approved the forced sterilization of Riddick, labeling her as “feebleminded” and “promiscuous”.

31 states have had goverment run eugenics programs.  Popularized in the 1920s, the Eugenicists believed that alcoholism, promiscuity, and poverty were inherited traits.  Those who exhibited these traits could be sterilized against their will, as a way to control welfare spending.  1/3 of women sterilized in North Carolina were between the ages of 9 and 18.  Between 1929 and 1974, 7,600 people were forcebly sterilized in North Carolina, 85% of which were women.  The North Carolina run eugenics board was disbanded in 1977, but the laws allowing involuntary sterilization existed until 2003.  The state issued a formal apology in 2002, and has been discussing plans for compensation since 2003.  Compensation plans have been anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. 

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue has been a big advocate in giving support to the estimated 2,000 living victims of forced sterilization.  Apart from financial compensation, plans are to give mental heath services to victims and a traveling museum about the eugenics program.  Knowing that this is an ugly part of North Carolina’s and America’s history, Perdue has said she wants this handled as soon as possible,

“I want this solved on my watch.  I want there to be completion.  I want the whole discussion to end and there be action for these folks.  There is nobody in North Carolina who is waiting for anybody to die,”

Perdue also wants people to understand this is not a situation about the money,

“From my perspective, and as a woman, and as the governor of this state, this is not about the money.  There isn’t enough money in the world to pay these people for what has been done to them, but money is part of the equation,”


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