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House eugenics bill gives $50,000 to victims

A House bill  introduced Wednesday would offer $50,000 to people ordered sterilized under the authority of the state Eugenics Board. The board authorized thousands of sterilizations from 1933 to 1974. Rep. Larry Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat, has been working for years for victim compensation.  House Speaker Thom Tillis took up the cause last year.

Under the bill, the state Industrial Commission would determine individuals' eligibilty.  Eligible people would receive the $50,000 tax free. An initial committee meeting on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

Tributes to Womble at task force meeting

Eugenics task force members and forced-sterilization victims paid tribute to Rep. Larry Womble as the champion behind the movement to win compensation for victims. 

Womble, 70, is hospitalized in critical condition in Winston-Salem after a two-car, head-on accident that killed the other driver, David Carmichael.

A police investigation determined that Womble crossed the center line of a Winston-Salem road at about 11 p.m. Friday night.

Rep. Earline Parmon, a friend of Womble's said he underwent another surgery this morning.

In addition to statements of support at the meeting, Dr. Laura Gerald, head of the task force considering compensation amounts for eugenics victims, and Charmaine Fuller Cooper, director of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, released prepared statements.

From Gerald: “Today marks the first time we have gathered as a Task Force without him in the room.  We send our prayers and well wishes to Rep. Womble and his family as he fights to recover from his injuries. We likewise extend condolences to the family of Mr. David Carmichael.”

From Cooper: "Rep. Womble has fought on behalf of eugenics victims for years and always states that he is not finished until justice is found. I am proud to know him. As the Task Force moves forward, the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation will continue to carry out the Governor’s directives to assist victims and asks the media and the public to persist in helping us to reach out to those affected by the state’s former Eugenics Board program.” 

Looking for support

An effort this week to help drum up interest in a bill to support past victims of forced sterilization in the state had an unfortunate opening line.

“Good Morning Eugenics Supporters,” read the e-mail sent from Rep. Larry Womble’s office.

Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat, has been a longtime supporter of reparations for the more than 7,600 estimated people who were sterilized in the state’s former eugenics program. He also is a key sponsor of a bill calling for, among other things, the development of counseling services for eugenics victims, reports April Bethea of The Charlotte Observer.

That bill will be heard Tuesday by the House Education committee. The e-mail urged recipients to attend the meeting to show their support.

Tiffany Jones, an intern in Womble’s office who sent the e-mail, said the message was meant to notify bill supporters and the media that it was on the calendar.

She said the opening line hadn’t drawn any complaints, but noted “it wasn’t intended to offend anyone.”

Bill would compensate sterilization victims

Larry WombleA bill filed today would give victims of the state's sterilization program $20,000 each.

The legislation, filed by four House Democrats, would make one-time cash payments to the estimated 2,000 to 2,800 North Carolinians sterilized by a state eugenics program that ran from 1929 through the 1970s.

The total cost could be between $40 and $56 million.

Rep. Larry Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat and one of the primary sponsors, said that he expects a lot of resistance from legislators worried about the state's potential $2 billion shortfall. But he said compensation is the right thing to do.

"The state committed a wrong against innocent people," he said. "This was worse than Nazi Germany."

A working committee came up with the figure on its own, since it could not find any similar compensation efforts to model. Womble said that he considers it far too low, but it was the best they could do.

"There is no amount of money that can restore their dignity or replace what the state took away from them," he said. "Their bloodline has been cut. They cannot continue their family name because the state did this horrific thing to the insides of their bodies." 

More House bills from day two

A few more bills have been filed in the House:

H.B. 15: Military Family Assistance Center / Funds, Rep. Cullie Tarleton

H.B. 16: Retired Judge May Perform Marriage, Rep. Russell Tucker

H.B. 17: Asheboro Satellite Annexation, Rep. Harold Brubaker

H.B. 18: Speech Language Pathologist Qualifications, Rep. Bill Faison

H.B. 19: MLK's 80th Birthday / Obama Inauguration, Reps. Larry Womble, Paul Luebke, Jennifer Weiss, Earline Parmon

H.B. 20: Compensate Eugenics Sterilization Survivors, Reps. Womble, Parmon, Ronnie Sutton and Martha Alexander

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