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North Carolina budget drops payment to forced sterilization victims

Elaine Riddick was 13 years old when she got pregnant after being raped by a neighbor in Winfall, N.C., in 1967. The state ordered that immediately after giving birth, she should be sterilized. Riddick is one of thousands sterilized as part of North Carolina's eugenics program.  Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

Victims of North Carolina's forced-sterilization program will not receive any compensation under a $20.2 billion state budget deal announced Wednesday. One outspoken victim of the program says she plans to sue.

If lawmakers had approved $10 million to start the compensation plan, the state would have been the first in the country to pay forced-sterilization victims.

The state's program ran from 1929 to 1974 and involved more than 7,600 people. The state House in May approved a plan to pay $50,000 to each victim still alive as of March 1, 2010.  Officials have verified 132 victims, of whom 118 are living, but they estimate that up to 2,000 people would be eligible for compensation, which all told would cost $100 million.


Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Eden, told the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper that there was not support in his chamber for the payments, leaving the compensation effort likely dead this year.

Republicans had raised questions about the potential total cost of compensation and whether offering compensation would open the door to other people seeking damages for previous misguided state activities, The Associated Press reported. 

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, told the News and Observer that he considered the inability to get eugenics funding “a personal failure.”

“It’s something I’ll continue to work on,” he said.

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue supported the compensation plan.

Shawn Rocco / AP file

Elaine Riddick hugs Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth, following a House committee meeting on May 22 in Raleigh, N.C.

Elaine Riddick of Atlanta, who spoke out on NBC’s "Rock Center" last year about the eugenics program, told the AP on Wednesday that she was angry with the Senate. Riddick, born in 1954, was 14 when she was sterilized after being raped and giving birth to a son.

"I have given North Carolina a chance to justify what they had wronged," she said, adding that she plans legal action on behalf of herself and other victims, including those who have died. "I gave them up until the last moment, but now I have no other choice. These people here don't care about these victims. ... I will die before I let them get away with this."

In November, Riddick told Rock Center that doctors cut and tied off her fallopian tubes.

“I have to carry these scars with me.  I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” she said.

Earlier: Victims speak out about North Carolina sterilization program

Riddick was never told what was happening, Rock Center reported. “Got to the hospital and they put me in a room and that’s all I remember, that’s all I remember,” she said.  “When I woke up, I woke up with bandages on my stomach.”

Rock Center's Dr. Nancy Snyderman investigates how thousands of North Carolinians were sterilized under the state's now defunct eugenics program. Survivors such as Elaine Riddick, shown here, are demanding answers and compensation from the government.

Riddick’s records reveal that a five-person state eugenics board in Raleigh had approved a recommendation that she be sterilized. The records label Riddick as “feebleminded” and “promiscuous.” They said her schoolwork was poor and that she “does not get along well with others.”

“I was raped by a perpetrator [who was never charged] and then I was raped by the state of North Carolina.  They took something from me both times,” she said.  “The state of North Carolina, they took something so dearly from me, something that was God given.”

This article includes reporting by The Associated Press.

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