In a landmark move by the state of North Carolina Wednesday, lawmakers passed a budget that includes $10 million to compensate the state’s victims of forced sterilization.
“There were challenges, we had to better educate our members — and then of course we had to work through the fiscal challenges — but at the end of the day, what we’ve done is something truly historic,” state House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, told NBC News.
From 1929 to 1974 North Carolina forcibly sterilized thousands of men, women and children, usually without their consent. It was part of a larger eugenics movement that believed poverty, promiscuity, and alcoholism were inherited traits, and that without them the gene pool could be improved.
Elaine Riddick was raped and impregnated at 13 years old and, after giving birth to her baby boy Tony, she was sterilized against her will. Afterward, she lived for years in shame, but had something to prove.
“People need to know that injustice was done towards them and they need to be compensated for that,” said Riddick, who was profiled by “NBC News Rock Center with Brian Williams” in November of 2011.
Riddick has been a formidable advocate for her fellow victims, pressing North Carolina to make amends. But multiple attempts at compensation have not come to fruition.
On Thursday Riddick said she was amazed to learn of North Carolina’s plans to compensate victims.
“I tip my hat to North Carolina, finally they came to their senses and decided to do what’s right,” she said.
Still, Riddick added, the money isn’t enough.
“You can’t put a price on someone taking your womb or castrating you, it’s humiliating,” Riddick said.
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