(HealthDay News) — California plans to approve reparations of up to $25,000 to some of the thousands of people who were sterilized decades ago by the state’s government.
California will be the third state — after Virginia and North Carolina — to compensate victims of the so-called eugenics movement that peaked in the 1930s, the Associated Press reported. Supporters of the movement believed it was beneficial to prevent people with mental illnesses and physical disabilities from having children.
While California sterilized more than 20,000 people before its law was repealed in 1979, only a few hundred are still alive, the AP reported. The state has set aside $7.5 million for the reparations program. The state’s proposal would also pay women the state coerced to get sterilized while they were in prison, some as recently as 2010. While all of the women signed consent forms, officials in 39 cases did not do everything that was legally required to obtain their permission.
California’s forced sterilization program began in 1909, following similar laws enacted in Indiana and Washington. It was by far the largest program, accounting for about a third of everyone sterilized in the United States under those laws, the AP said.
Just a few hundred of the people sterilized under California’s old eugenics law are still alive today, according to research conducted by the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab. Advocates estimate more than 600 people would be eligible for reparations, including the inmates who were sterilized more recently, the AP reported. But finding them will be difficult, with advocates predicting only about 25 percent of eligible people will ultimately apply for reparations and be paid.
The California Victim Compensation Board will run the reparations program, with $2 million used to find victims through advertising and searching state records.