Oct 5 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) released a video explaining what motivated him to pursue eugenics compensation legislation in North Carolina, and what prompted him to introduce federal legislation to protect the compensation payments of eugenics victims in North Carolina.


In the video, Senator Tillis also calls on county government in North Carolina to offer restitution payments to the victims of county-run sterilization programs that were separate from the Eugenics Board of North Carolina.

In 2013, Tillis, then North Carolina Speaker of the House, partnered with Rep. Larry Womble to make North Carolina the first state in the nation to create a compensation fund for the victims of its state-run eugenics program. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina sterilized thousands of citizens from the 1920s to the 1970s, many against their will. In 2014, more than 200 living North Carolina victims were awarded their first compensation payment of approximately $20,000 each.

Months after Tillis was sworn in as U.S. Senator in 2015, he introduced the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act, legislation that will assist eugenics victims receiving compensation payments by excluding their payments from being used in determining eligibility for, or the amount of, federal safety net programs. Without this legislation, many eugenics victims receiving compensation payments could see their federal safety net benefits reduced or their eligibility eliminated altogether. Tillis’ bill passed unanimously in the Senate last year and the House last month. It will soon be signed into law by President Obama.

Senator Tillis on passing eugenics compensation legislation as North Carolina House Speaker, the first law of its kind to compensate eugenics victims:

“What we found out long before I was Speaker of the House was that there were a number of people in leadership who were just not prepared to face up to reality that the state had done something wrong. They never picked up the bill that [State Rep.] Larry Womble had been wanting to move for several years. We decided that we were going to take the hits and do the right thing for the victims. It was not easy. We had opposition from both sides, some saying we shouldn’t do it at all, others saying we weren’t doing enough. But those had been the arguments that had prevented it from happening in the past, and we decided that we were going to push through and do the right thing for the victims.”

Senator Tillis on why he introduced The Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act:

“We found out that if we did not change the federal law, the restitution payments that the state made to the victims could potentially be taken away by the federal government. We got unanimous support out of the Senate and we recently passed it out of the House, and it’s going to the President’s desk. It will make sure that the restitution payment is solely the victims’ and not something that will be paid back to the federal government.”

Senator Tillis on why county governments in North Carolina should offer restitution to victims who were forcibly sterilized by county governments:

“Some of the challenges that we’ve gotten to the restitution bill for eugenics victims relates to a different area where forced sterilizations occurred; they were at the local level. They weren’t ordered by the state. What I’m encouraging local governments in North Carolina to do is look at programs that may have been under local control and see if they can implement policies that allow victims of forced sterilization at a local level to receive restitution payments similar to what those who were ordered by the eugenics board will receive. It’s difficult with the paperwork, a number of other things that will have to be used to validate claims, but I think it’s worth looking at, trying to do the right thing for more people if we can implement these kinds of programs at a county level.”