WASHINGTON – It’s one of the darkest chapters in American history: the forced sterilization of thousands of people throughout 50 years.
Now, there’s an effort to find those who survived.
“It started right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I think people just associate it with Nazi Germany,” says Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington.
More than 7,500 people were forcibly sterilized in the state between 1924 and 1979, when the law allowing the practice was repealed. They were called “undesirables” under a now-discredited pseudoscience called eugenics.
Some were mentally ill or of low intellegence. Others were victims of sexual assault.
Virginia formally apologized to those victims in 2002, but Hope says he wants the state to offer some symbolic reparations to those still living.
“I just really want to know who these people are, what is their story and how it has affected their lives,” Hope says.
“It happened right here in the United States and we want to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness of that.”
Some critics say such payments would open the state up to expensive lawsuits, but Hope says that would have happened years ago.
The Christian Law Institute of Lynchburg, Va. — a city where the last two victims were sterilized in 1979 — will head up the effort to find the victims.
Hope says it may take some help from the Virginia General Assembly to provide some type of symbolic payment to surviving victims.