To his credit, Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis has become a strong supporter of North Carolina making payments to victims of the states long-running eugenics program, in which some of those judged to be mentally deficient in some way were sterilized involuntarily. Some 1,500 to 2,000 victims of this misguided attempt, which dated to the early 20th century, to improve the genetic makeup of populations are still alive.
And they are, as Tillis and other Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have said, entitled to compensation for what the state did to them. The board that oversaw the eugenics program didnt go out of business until 1977, and the laws that allowed the program werent repealed until 2003.
This was simply a disgrace, and it was good to see the state House moving ahead with a proposal to pay victims who can be documented $50,000. Now, unfortunately, the state Senate (also controlled by Republicans) has not provided money for the payments in its budget. Thats wrong, and its all the more troubling because it appears the money may become a bargaining chip for senators to use with House members when the chambers go to talks on budget compromise.
That is a familiar tactic that goes something like: You get the money for your Program A if we get our money for Program B. Then the budget is so adjusted.
But the issue of making things right, or as close to right as they can be at this point, with eugenics victims is far too important, and overdue, to treat it like some political chip to be tossed on the negotiation table. These people have been wronged, and in too many cases, their lives have almost been ruined by what was done to them. They deserve the dignity of a timely settlement, minus the politics.