Eugenics victims get another payout in budget conference report

Credit: The John Locke Foundation
Rep. Paul Stam, House Speaker Pro Tem

Rep. Paul Stam, House Speaker Pro Tem

RALEIGH – Victims of the state-sponsored sterilization program called eugenics will get another payout in the budget conference report released on Monday night. Just over 220 victims of the program that ended in 1974 received $20,000 in compensation from the state last year. The remaining compensation was going to be held until claimants who were found to not qualify for the program exhausted the appeals process. Instead, lawmakers decided to make an extra $15,000 payment on Nov. 1 to those who’ve already been approved.

“Although no apology or amount of money can truly make amends, compensation represents a commitment by North Carolina to respect human life and liberty,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Representative Paul Stam in a statement yesterday. Stam has long been an advocate of compensation for the victims, as have other current and former members of the General Assembly, both Republican and Democrat.

A final payment will go to victims after the last appeal is complete, with the amount determined by dividing remaining funds among the final number of victims.  Lawmakers decided to make the extra payments so that elderly victims who’ve already qualified might be able to get the payment in their lifetime while the appeals process continues for others.

Now discredited on scientific and humanitarian grounds, eugenics was a movement of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries that aimed to “improve” mankind through the encouragement of reproduction among favored groups, such as geniuses and athletes, and preventing the reproduction of disfavored groups, such as the physically disabled and mentally retarded. It was promoted by the leading politicians of all stripes and had the support of top world academic institutions and philanthropic foundations. Eugenics lost favor following World War II due to the rise of human rights as a worldwide issue and the association of eugenics with racial purity campaigns in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.