RICHMOND (WRIC) – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is vowing to work to compensate Virginia’s forced sterilization victims.
“Obviously this is a very serious issue,” he says when asked what he plans to do to right a century-old wrong. “I plan on working to see what we can. We’re beginning the discussions now.”
But Virginia’s forced sterilization victims – those who were deemed unfit to breed and condemned to a life with no chance for children and grandchildren – want more than discussion.
“They took away something I could have had,” says victim Janet Ingram. “They don’t know how it hurt.”
“I don’t have nobody to take care of me. I am all by myself,” says victim Lewis Reynolds.
The victims have seen enough discussion from state lawmakers the past two years to last two lifetimes.
In the name of creating a master race, the Commonwealth, under the pseudo-science of eugenics, forcibly sterilized more than 7,000 people between 1924 and 1979. It was done to those deemed afflicted with insanity, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy.
Lewis Reynolds, who would grow to be a Marine Sgt. and led men in battle in two wars, was sterilized as a boy at a Lynchburg state hospital because he was having seizures.
“I think they done wrong myself,” he says.
In what supporters describe as “throwing the victims a bone,” the House of Delegates proposed giving each of them $25,000 – half of what North Carolina sterilization victims were awarded just last year.
“$50,000 for what was taken away surely is not any award, that’s outrageous,” says Mark Bold of the Christian Law Institute.
And for many, this is about more than money. The original proposed compensation bill would also allow immediate family of deceased victims to see state records about their relatives – records that are presently sealed.
“My mom had a baby,” Ingram says. “Well she was pregnant and I don’t know what happened to it. They didn’t tell us.”
The victims are now turning to the governor as a final hope and asking him to amend the budget to provide them a small measure of justice.
When asked what his plans are, Governor McAuliffe, the business man who wants to focus on jobs and the future, admits in this case, he’ll have to address the past.
“It was just plain wrong and we need to do something about it,” he says.
So far only 10 living sterilization victims have been positively identified, but that number has now dropped to nine. Raymond Bowen of Lynchburg passed away in mid-February never knowing if his home state would truly make amends for one of the most shameful chapters of its past.
8News Investigates: Unfit to Breed
GA to Sterilization Victims: “You’re Not Worth the Time it Would Take to Discuss the Issue”
8News Investigates: Virginia’s History of Forced Sterilization
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond