A task force in North Carolina voted on Tuesday that people sterilized against their will under a reproached North Carolina state program should each be paid up to $50,000.
The force’s ruling marks the first time a state has moved to compensate victims of the public health practice known as eugenics.
Chairwoman Laura Gerald said the task force was seeking balance between the needs of the victims and political reality, citing "compensation has been on the table now for nearly 10 years, but the state has lacked the political will to do anything other than offer an apology," MSNBC reported.
Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina state officials sterilized over 7,600 people under eugenics programs in an attempt to create a better society by eliminating the mentally disabled, criminals and people often considered undesirable.
North Carolina increased sterilizations after World War II, despite comparisons to Nazi Germany, who held similar practices, MSNBC reported. Approximately 70 percent of North Carolina's sterilizations were performed post WWII, climaxing in the 1950s, according to state records. In 1977, the state ended the eugenics program officially.
Elaine Riddick, who was sterilized when she was just 14 after she gave birth to a child that was the product of rape, said she can’t wait for the ordeal to end.
"I just want it to be over," Riddick said, MSNBC reported. "You can't change anything. You just let go and let God."
Riddick was raped by a neighbor in Winfall, N.C., in 1967.
According to Riddick’s records, a five-person state eugenics board approved a recommendation that she be sterilized, labeling her as “promiscuous” and “feebleminded.”
“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,” said Riddick, MSNBC reported. “The state of North Carolina, they took something so dearly from me, something that was God given.”
According to a task force report from last year, 1,500 to 2,000 of those post WWII victims were still alive, and the state has verified 72 victims, MSNBC reported.
“I have to carry these scars with me. I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” Riddick said during an emotional interview with Rock Center in November, explaining how the state ordered she be sterilized immediately after she gave birth.
Doctors cut and tied off Riddick’s fallopian tubes without her knowledge.
“Got to the hospital and they put me in a room and that’s all I remember, that’s all I remember,” Riddick told NBC. “When I woke up, I woke up with bandages on my stomach.”
When Riddick was 19, married and desired more children, she was told by a doctor in New York that she had been sterilized.
The panel recommended that the money go to living victims that had been verified, including those who are currently alive but may die before lawmakers approve any payments, MSNBC reported. The panel discussed granting compensation of between $20,000 and $50,000 per person.
North Carolina is one of nearly six states to apologize for past eugenics programs, but stands alone in their attempts to compensate victims.