The five-member Eugenics Task Force was established by Executive Order No. 83, which stated that “an estimated 7,600 North Carolinians – women and men – many of whom were poor, uneducated, sick or disabled, were sterilized by force or coercion under the authorization of the North Carolina Eugenics Board between 1929 and 1974.”
The task force today has recommended $50,000 per victim. It had considered amounts between $20,000 and $50,000, while a victims’ group and family members proposed an amount of $1 million for each victim.
The task force also recommended a three-year statute of limitations on claims and the establishment of a fund for mental health services for the victims.
North Carolina officials believe that anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 victims may still be alive and have, so far, verified 72 victims.
In a document on what occurred published by the North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, it states that eugenics, which developed in the 1800s, constituted the “selective breeding of humans and animals to rid the population of characteristics deemed unfit.” It defines sterilization as “medical procedures that leave a person unable to conceive children.”
By 1935, there were sterilization laws in 25 states, according to the document. For North Carolina, the first sterilization law was passed in 1929 and a reported 49 people were sterilized under that law. In 1937, a sterilization hospital stay law was enacted in North Carolina. It allowed for the “temporary admission of individuals into state hospitals for the purpose of sterilization,” reads the document.
Between the years 1933 and 1977, an estimated 7,528 people were sterilized in North Carolina.
A eugenical sterilization report from June 30, 1935, in North Carolina, shows that there were 18 vasectomies, 26 castrations, 12 ovariectomies (removal of ovaries), and 167 salpingectomies (removal of a fallopian tube).
Another document shows the age ranges of some of the people forcibly sterilized. These include 445 males ages 10-19 and 2,545 females ages 10-19. Another 368 males between ages 20-29 were also sterilized, as were 2,553 females.
Some of the highest number of sterilizations in North Carolina were from July 1950 to June 1960 – 2,983 total; and July 1960 to June 1968 – 1,620 total.
Charts and information produced by the task force also describe Life Table Assumptions, which show the distribution of victims as “73% ‘mentally retarded’ or ‘feeble-mindedness,’ i.e., intellectual or developmental disability.” It also lists “22% ‘mental disease’ and ‘mental illness’” and “’5% epilepsy.’”
The task force’s recommendation now goes to Gov. Perdue who will make a final recommendation that must be approved by the Legislature.
In 1974, a $10-million settlement was reached between victims of the Tuskegee syphilis experiments and the U.S. Government. It was not until 1997, however, when President Bill Clinton apologized on behalf of the nation, that the victims received a formal and official apology from the government.
Michael W. Chapman contributed to this report.