Standing alongside members of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Thom Tillis said an ignorance of history among his colleagues in the Senate is mostly to blame for a failed bid to compensate victims of a state-run eugenics board.
Tillis said North Carolina's lack of due process for those forced into sterilization by the state as well as the active presence of the program until 1974 makes the state need to take more responsibility than some of its neighbors. Tillis said Tennessee had no eugenics program whatsoever and that Georgia and South Carolina steadily cut their programs after World War Two.
"What happened in North Carolina was different, very different," Tillis said. "In North Carolina, eugenics went up sharply in the 50's and 60's."
Earlier in the day, Sen. Don East said after voicing opposition for compensation that money would do nothing to change history and an apology -- similar to the one issued by the General Assembly for slavery -- would be more fitting.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said an apology falls short of making a difference for those affected by state-mandated sterilization.
"When you basically take someone's reproductive rights, and you take it against their will so they can't have children, that's something where you really want to ... not just legally, but also morally to make amends.
"Unfortunately, these people are dying," he added. "Every year we delay this, that's one additional year that ... people that could file for claims, that could be compensated for rights they lost, won't have that opportunity."
--Staff writer Austin Baird