Sep 27 2016

Today, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Richard Burr (R-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) applauded the House’s passage of S. 1698, the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act. The bipartisan legislation is authored by Senators Tillis and Carper and co-sponsored by Senators Burr, Warner, Kaine, and Feinstein. The legislation unanimously passed the Senate last year and will now head to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.
The Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act will help protect living eugenics victims receiving compensation payments by excluding their payments from being used in determining eligibility for, or the amount of, federal safety net programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and SSI-Disabled. Without this legislation, eugenics victims who receive compensation payments could see their federal benefits reduced or even have their eligibility eliminated.
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. Recently, victims began receiving their second eugenics compensation payments, worth an additional $15,000.
Last year, Virginia became the second state to pass legislation compensating the victims of a state-run eugenics program. Virginia will award $25,000 to each individual who was involuntarily sterilized and is still alive as of February 1, 2015.
“Passage of this legislation caps off a long quest for justice for the victims of North Carolina’s shameful eugenics and sterilization program. When we established the compensation program for victims in North Carolina, we certainly didn’t intend to jeopardize their access to critical federal safety net programs through a legal technicality. They have suffered long enough, and I commend my colleagues in the House and Senate who have stood with these brave survivors to pass this legislation and bring relief,” said Senator Tillis. “I also hope this legislation will help raise the American public’s awareness of a dark and shameful chapter in our nation’s history. I would like to offer a much-deserved thank you to my friend and former colleague, North Carolina state Rep. Larry Womble, who has provided extraordinary leadership in the decades-long fight for justice for the living victims of North Carolina’s eugenics program. It has been an honor to join in this fight for justice.”
“People who’ve been subjected to horrifying sterilization practices as a result of misguided eugenics programs have already had to live with unfathomable loss and hardship,” said Senator Tom Carper. “These individuals shouldn’t be penalized for compensation funds that they have received for their suffering, especially because it can never repair the pain they’ve had to endure. I’m proud that Congress came together across party lines to approve this important effort to ensure that no person loses important federal benefits because they received this type of compensation.”
“The government robbed these individuals. We can never restore the families that were irreparably damaged, but we can ensure that eugenics victims who are eligible for compensation do not also have to endure their benefits being cut,” said Senator Richard Burr. “Eugenics was a dark chapter in our history. I encourage President Obama to sign this important legislation.”
“This was one of the darkest, most shameful periods in Virginia’s history,” said Senator Mark Warner. “We should be doing everything in our power to ensure that the victims of this injustice have unimpeded access to the federal assistance to which they are entitled. I look forward to seeing the President sign this important piece of legislation into law.”