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From 1929 until 1974, an estimated 7,600 North Carolinians, women and men, many of whom were poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick or disabled, were sterilized by choice, force or coercion under the authorization of the North Carolina Eugenics Board program.Gov. Bev Perdue established the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation in 2010 to provide justice and compensate victims who were forcibly sterilized by the State of North Carolina. The Foundation functions as a clearinghouse to assist victims of the former N.C. Eugenics Board program and thereby serves as the primary point of contact for victims, potential victims and the general public who are seeking guidance about North Carolina’s former sterilization laws and program.- NCDOA

NC Searches for Eugenics Victims

The Governor’s Eugenics Task Force met in Raleigh last week to discuss its recommendations for compensating victims of the state’s sterilization program, which ended in 1974.  WHQR’s  Sara Wood reports the group heard recommendations for outreach options to help find more victims.

The foundation estimates there are between 1,500 and 2,500 living victims and so far this year only 48 have been identified. Charmaine Fuller Cooper is the executive director of the North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation,  formed in March 2010 to help locate victims of the state's eugenics board program. She  says there are privacy issues at stake and it’s not as easy as taking names off records and knocking on doors.

“So we have to strike that balance between those who want to keep this information about their life private versus those who want to be very public. And in doing so, we could easily jeopardize people’s privacy and confidentiality by launching a campaign where we actually send a letter or went to the house or contacted each of the individuals who had names in the eugenics board records.”

Fuller Cooper presented the task force with suggestions to build an outreach campaign. The foundation has a telephone number and website and relies on the media to get the word out.  She says the recommendations are still being considered and it’s hard to tell victims what they will be offered.

"So not knowing the definites is a barrier because we do get callers who say 'OK I think I was sterilized. After I get my paperwork and a copy of my records what's the next step?' And right now we have to say the next steps are being formed. But we are in a wait-and-see mode to find out specifically what the legislature will rule and recommend as for as the justice for the victims."

The task force’s recommendations are due to the Governor Perdue in February and consider financial compensation and mental health services for living victims, continued funding for the victims foundation, and funds for a traveling eugenics exhibit.

For more information about the North Carolina Justice for Sterilizations Victims Foundation, please call 877-550-6013 or visit their web site.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email news@whqr.org