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Victims of Virginia’s eugenics program to be compensated for forced sterilizations

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RICHMOND, VA, March 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The State of Virginia will compensate victims of forced sterilization after lawmakers voted to approve payment last Thursday, February 26.

Approximately $400,000 was allocated to compensate the estimated 11 victims known to be still living.

"I think it’s a recognition when we do something wrong we need to fix it as a government,” Democrat delegate Patrick Hope told the teleSUR news service. "Now we can close this final chapter and healing can begin.”

More than 8,000 Virginia residents were forcibly sterilized between 1924 and 1979.

Virginia passed the Sterilization Act in 1924, which sanctioned “the operation of sterilization” on any patient afflicted with insanity, “idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness, or epilepsy.”

In addition to those with psychiatric disorders, legislators also targeted the homeless in order to reduce poverty rates.

A little more than 20 percent of the victims were black and two-thirds were women. Most were told at the time they were the surgical procedures were being performed for assorted health issues.

Regardless of race or ethnicity the standard for sterilization was a supposed lack of intellect or “desirable” genes.

This was the third legislative attempt at compensation, with bills failing in 2013 and 2014.

“It is hard for me to think that they thought I was worthless,” 86-year-old Lewis Reynolds said at the time of the second effort to pass legislation approving compensation for forced sterilization victims.

Reynolds, a veteran, was one of about a dozen survivors to seek redress in Virginia. He was sterilized as a teenager, because he had epilepsy – something he was not aware of until he joined the military.

“I always wanted children. My wife and I would cry, because I could not give her children,” he said. “I sometimes still will cry when I am alone. I wanted children very much.”

Sisters Sadie and Janet Ingram were 69 and 66-years-old respectively in 2014 when lawmakers tried to garner compensation for victims the second time. The women were sterilized by the state without their knowledge decades before.

“I think it was wrong,” they said. “They took away our life.”

The Virginia program was part of a nationwide eugenics campaign customary throughout the United States during the middle third of the 20th century. More than 30 states practised some form of forced sterilization at its peak. A projected 65,000 people were sterilized before the movement was over nationally in the early 1980s.

North Carolina was the first state to provide financial compensation to victims, offering roughly $15,000 each in 2014 to the estimated 630 survivors who came forward out of 8,000 forcibly sterilized between 1929 and 1974.

The Virginia program is said to have been used by the Nazis for their eugenics mission during World War II.

Forced sterilization is not limited to the United States, nor to the past.

“By no means is eugenics a thing of the past,” Stephen Phelan, director of mission communications for Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews. “It remains a fashionable, if rebranded, progressive moral cause.”

Billions of dollars pour into poor countries to incentivize governments and community leaders to have people sterilized, permanently or temporarily, Phelan told LifeSiteNews.

Today it’s the Gates Foundation, Marie Stopes International, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and similar non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and it’s just now been rebranded as a boon to the poor, rather than its more honest, openly parochial approach in the early and mid-20th century.

“In the developing world and in poor communities of the United States, eugenics has a new name: reproductive health,” Phelan said. “What eugenicists like Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes started continues today under the guise of “empowering women” to make their own “reproductive choices.”

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China has had a one-child policy in place for more than 35 years. A woman recently who was forcibly sterilized by government family planning agents in 2012 recently sued the Chinese government, claiming she has suffered ongoing physical damages. While the Chinese government refused to hear the case, it was the first time someone sued the government asking for compensation for health problems resulting from forced sterilization.

India has been the site of sterilization camps for decades, with the tacit approval of the government.

More than 300,000 poor women in Peru were targeted for forced sterilization by former president Alberto Fujimori.

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