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North Carolina tackles eugenics issue

Dec. 10, 2011 at 12:14 PM   |   Comments

RALEIGH, N.C., Dec. 10 (UPI) -- North Carolina is trying to find a way to compensate an estimated 7,600 people who were sterilized against their will as part of the state's eugenics program.

The program ran from 1933 to 1977 as an experiment in genetic engineering, The New York Times reported Friday.

Among those sterilized were uneducated young women, poor teenagers from large families, people with epilepsy and those deemed too "feeble-minded" to raise children. Non-white minorities made up about 40 percent of those sterilized and girls and women about 85 percent.

About 60,000 people were sterilized under a nationwide eugenics program.

Although the state submitted an official apology in 2002, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue set up a task force to figure out how to compensate victims of the program.

"The state owes something to the victims," said Perdue, who campaigned on the issue.

"How can you quantify how much a baby is worth to people?" asked Charmaine Fuller Cooper, executive director of the North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, which is financed by the state. "It's not about quantifying the unborn child, it's about the choices that were taken away."

Some have suggested a $20,000 amount, but some victims say that isn't enough.

"What would an apology do for me?" said Nial Ramirez, 65, who was sterilized at 18 in 1964. "You don't know what my kids were going to be. You don't know what kids God was going to give me. Twenty thousand dollars ain't gonna do it, honey."

The five-person task force, which has been meeting since May, is set to have a final report in February.

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