House panel approves $10M for sterilization victims
RALEIGH -- Tuesday was a milestone day for victims of North Carolina's Eugenics Board.
A house panel approved a $10 million compensation package. It entitles victims to tax-free lump sum payments of $50,000.
Between the 1930s and 1970s over 7,500 hundreds of North Carolinians were forcibly sterilized by the state's Eugenics Board.
The state estimates as many as 1,500 victims are still living and eligible for compensation.
The measure still needs to pass the full State House and Senate.
In a public hearing before the vote, victims like Elaine Riddick testified to the horrors of Eugenics.
"I was basically in the bed 15 to 17 days out of a month hemorrhaging because of this," stated Riddick. "Fifty-thousand-dollars cannot even begin to compensate me for the cruel and unusual punishment that the state of North Carolina inflicted upon me."
Mary Francis English has waited more than 30 years for this day and, to her, it's not all just about the money.
"I feel totally absolutely vindicated," said English. "It will help us know that someone somewhere not only said they were sorry but they proved it by passing this bill."
English was one of the first victims to go public with her story. In 1972, she was young divorcee with three children when she says her OBGYN offered to help her with birth control. She later learned the awful truth and lived with the physical and emotional scars.
Like other victims, English said $50,000 is a step in helping victims deal with their shame and humiliation.
"I have told my secret," said English, "but I will be living with the ramifications the rest of my life."
Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth, who worked more than a decade for the compensation of North Carolina victims of forced sterilization, returned to the Capitol on Tuesday for the first time since being injured last year in a car accident.
Confined to a wheelchair, Womble was injured in December in a wreck that killed the other driver.
The nine-term lawmaker said he wouldn't have missed the vote for the world.
"We have to translate 'I'm sorry' into actions and that's what the state of North Carolina has done," said Womble. "This is a very auspicious occasion because North Carolina sits on the brink of making world history."
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