Imagine being forcibly sterilized by the government (being operated on so that you are biologically unable to have children) because your state deemed you “unfit” to have children. You don’t need to imagine. This was a real chapter in Virginia’s history. Virginia implemented its eugenics program in 1924 and kept it on the books until 1979. Virginia sterilized 7,325 victims under its law. The programs often targeted the poor and African Americans, many times at a young age. Virginia’s eugenics program and laws served as a model for Adolf Hitler.
For the second year in a row, Delegates Robert G. Marshall (R) and Patrick A. Hope (D), are introducing a bill that Eric Metaxes argues “would compensate victims of one of the most terrible violations of human dignity in American history: the forcible sterilization of those deemed to pose a “genetic threat” to society.”
While there are only about ten living victims still with us today, compensating them would be a statement that we value the dignity and value of human life. It would be a statement that we, as a society, acknowledge the evils we have done under the false pretense of doing good. We need your help to encourage the Virginia legislature to do the right thing, even though there may only be a handful of living victims. “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”
Perhaps hearing the story of Lewis Reynolds, one of those sterilized, will help lead you to action. (This video is from last year, so we have another opportunity to get the bill passed.)
If you value human life, contact your delegate and voice your support for the “Justice for Victims of Sterilization Act.” (Right now, it looks like the bill, HB 74, is being reviewed by a committee. Contact those on the House Appropriations Sub-Committee and tell them to let the bill come up for a vote!)
The bill in Virginia caps damages at $50,000 per living victim. The number of living victims in Virginia are few. North Carolina passed a bill last year to compensate their victims and they have more living victims than we do because their program was more aggressive than ours in the 1950s and 1960s.
Let your delegate know that HB 74 is a statement about the value and dignity of life. It is also a statement about government accountability, responsibility, and the proper role of government. While monetary compensation can’t undo the evils done by the state, reparations mean a lot than a mere verbal apology. Thank you for spreading the word.