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Originally published: 2014-05-15 17:25:52
Last modified: 2014-05-15 17:25:52

Deadline set for sterilization victim claims

by Anna Oakes

Victims of North Carolina's forced sterilization program have until June 30 to submit a claim for compensation, the Office for Justice of Sterilization Victims announced.

The state's forced sterilization (eugenics) program lasted from 1929 to 1974. An estimated 7,600 North Carolinians -- including women and men who were poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick and disabled -- were sterilized under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board.

Last year's state budget bill for 2013-15 authorized a nonrecurring appropriation of $10 million to compensate verified living victims of the state's eugenics program.

As of last summer, 177 living victims had been verified statewide, including three in Ashe County and two in Avery County, Chris Mears, public information officer for the N.C. Department of Administration, said last year.

But the Office for Justice of Sterilization Victims said earlier this month that it had received 442 claim forms from potential victims as of May 1, with 281 of those claims being forwarded to the N.C. Industrial Commission to determine eligibility for compensation.

"As of early 2013, 176 living victims were verified in an attempt to identify sterilization victims," the office said.

The Office for Justice of Sterilization Victims did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for updated numbers of verified victims in local counties, including Watauga.

In 2012, the Watauga Democrat interviewed Margaret Owens McCoy, a then 72-year-old Ashe County resident, who said she was unknowingly sterilized as a teenager.

McCoy said she had received confirmation from the state that she had been verified as a match with state sterilization records.

The state's Eugenics Compensation Task Force estimated in 2012 that living victims could number between 1,500 and 2,000 people. The office sent approximately 1,000 direct mail pieces to identified victims, has placed hundreds of telephone calls and has conducted media interviews on television, radio and in print, it said.

In addition, the office has partnered on general outreach with state agencies such as DHHS, DMV, Council for Women, Commission of Indian Affairs, Human Relations Commission, Governor's Office of Community and Constituent Affairs and the UNC Center for Civil Rights to assist in this effort.

For more information, including claim forms, visit the Office for Justice of Sterilization Victims at http://www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov or call (919) 807-4270.