8News Investigates: Unfit to Breed [Update]

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RICHMOND (WRIC) – On a frigid day at the Capitol with icicles forming outside, there's renewed hope of a warming inside the halls of power towards compensating the living victims of Virginia's efforts to create a super race.

“This is something that has to be rectified not just with soothing words but with actions,” says Del. Bob Marshall.

It was the actions of the state that robbed now 86-year-old Lewis Reynolds of the ability to have children.

“I only wonder what kind of a father I would have made if I had a family, but I do not have one,” Reynolds says.

The retired Marine Corps Sgt. Is one of more than 7,000 Virginians forcibly sterilized between 1924 and 1979 under the Commonwealth's Eugencial Sterilization Act, which was based on the now discredited science of eugenics.

Eugenics had the stated goal of riding society of those considered defective, those whose offspring might burden society – those with “unfit human traits…

Virginia law, declared “insanity, idiocy, imbecility, epilepsy, and crime” could be influenced by heredity and allowed the compulsory sterilization of those confined to state institutions. As a child, Reynolds displayed signs of epilepsy and was sterilized by court order.

“I can't look him in the face and say ‘we're sorry, go away and all things are well,' Marshall says. “They're not all well and that's why we're here today,”

Conservative Republican Bob Marshall and liberal Democrat Patrick Hope typically don't agree on much.

“We stand in front of sundials and dispute the time, but on this we have no difference,” Marshall says.

The unlikely duo has joined forces to sponsor a bill that would compensate the living victims of the sterilization law out of the state's surplus budget.

“Today we're calling on Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia General Assembly to take decisive action for the decades of policy that sterilized thousands of Virginians,” Hope says.

The measure failed last year, but the hope is that with North Carolina recently agreeing to compensate it's sterilization victims, similar winds of change may also be blowing in Richmond.

“People like Lewis Reynolds can't afford to wait any longer. Let's get this done in this session.”

One of the big remaining unanswered questions is just how many of Virginia's sterilization victims are still alive.

A toll free hotline (888-643-7497) and website have been set up.

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If you have a story for Investigative Reporter A.J. Lagoe to look into, email him at AJInvestigates@wric.com, or find him on Facebook or Twitter (@AJInvestigates).

 

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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