Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) called on the state Monday to compensate people it forcibly sterilized under a eugenics law enforced as recently as 1979.
Between 1927 to 1979, Virginia sterilized about 8,000 people deemed unfit to reproduce for reasons such as mental illness, physical deformity or homelessness.
“Compensating these individuals is the just and right thing to do,” Hope said in a prepared statement. “This year marks the 85th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Buck v. Bell decision, which upheld Virginia’s 1924 eugenics sterilization law, a model law used by many other states to sterilize their people.”
Ten years ago, on the 75th anniversary of that decision, then-Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) apologized for what he called a “shameful” effort. It was the first time a U.S. governor had formally apologized for forced sterilizations, which 30 states inflicted on an estimated 65,000 Americans.
“It is both emblematic and responsible for Virginia to take the lead again on the issue of eugenics sterilization, but this time in becoming the first state to provide relief to the victims,” Hope said. “It is appropriate for Virginia to set this example.”
Hope called on Gov. Robert F. McDonnell ( R) and the General Assembly to offer a “symbolic payment to the victims who are still alive.”
There were several dozen surviving victims of Virginia’s policy 10 years ago, when Warner issued his apology. Hope’s office could not immediately provide the current number.
McDonnell’s office condemned the eugenics policy but did not immediately take a stand on potential legislation to compensate the victims.
“Sterilization was a horrific and unconscionable policy,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said via e-mail. “The Governor will review this legislation after it is introduced.”