Dec 9 2015

Today, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee successfully agreed to send The Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act out of committee and to the House floor for an upcoming vote. The bipartisan legislation, originally introduced in the Senate by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tom Carper (D-DE), excludes payments from state eugenics compensation programs from consideration in determining federal benefits. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Mark Warner (D-VA) are original co-sponsors of the Senate bill, which successfully passed through the chamber last week with a unanimous vote.
Representatives Patrick McHenry (NC-10) and G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) are leading the effort to ensure this legislation successfully passes through the House chamber. Representative Mark Walker (NC-06), a member of the OGR Committee, urged his colleagues this morning to pass this bipartisan legislation out of committee and to the House floor.
State-run eugenics and compulsory sterilization laws victimized more than 60,000 Americans in 33 states from the 1920s to the 1970s. State governments often targeted specific groups for sterilization, including unmarried women, African-Americans, and children from poor families. Victims were often sterilized without their consent or knowledge.
In 2013, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to pass legislation to create a state fund to compensate the living victims of the state-run forced sterilization program. In 2014, more than 200 North Carolina victims were awarded their first compensation payment of approximately $20,000 each. Last month, victims began receiving their second eugenics compensation payments, worth an additional $15,000.
The legislation will help assist living eugenics victims receiving compensation payments by excluding their payments from being used in determining eligibility for, or the amount of, federal public benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and SSI-Disabled. Without this legislation, many eugenics victims who receive compensation payments could see their federal benefits reduced or even have their eligibility eliminated. 
“I am thrilled to see this legislation move quickly through both chambers of Congress, and I look forward to seeing a full vote in the House,” said Senator Tillis. “This legislation can never right the wrongs of the past, but I applaud my colleagues in both the Senate and House for their efforts to pass this bill and further increase the public’s awareness of the horrors and injustices of state-run eugenics and sterilization programs. I hope other states follow the lead of North Carolina and create their own eugenics compensation programs.”
“I am encouraged that the House is taking up this important piece of legislation,” said Senator Burr. “Eugenics and sterilization programs are a dark part of our history. We can’t go back in time and undo the damage that was done to the victims and their families. However, we can take the necessary steps to assist those who were affected, including on the state level to help these individuals.”
“Today’s news is a positive development in our continued efforts to right the wrongs committed during this shameful period of our state’s history,” said Congressman McHenry. “We can never fully repay the victims of this horrific program but our legislation at least ensures they are not victimized again. I’d like to thank Chairman Chaffetz and members of the Oversight Committee for their swift action on my bill. I look forward to seeing this important legislation come to the House floor early next year.”
“Between 1929 and 1976 more than 7,000 people in North Carolina were sterilized in one of the nation’s most aggressive eugenic programs,” said Congressman Butterfield. “I applaud the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for their expeditious and favorable consideration of this important legislation and look forward to its passage and enactment.”
“We will never be able to justify North Carolina’s sterilization program, nor will we be able to delete this page of our state’s history. However, we can acknowledge these injustices and make restitutions,” said Congressman Walker. “I applaud Senator Tillis for leading this effort in North Carolina and in Washington. This bill should serve as a reminder that every life is precious and I look forward to seeing its passage in the House.”