California is set to start paying reparations of up to $25,000 for people who were forcibly sterilized as part of a decades-long state effort to curb the population of people it deemed “mentally defective” or “sexually deviant.”
The state’s program, which is part of the eugenics movement and the largest in the country — ran from 1909 to 1979 and left 20,000 people unable to have children. It disproportionately affected disabled people and people of color. The budget awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s figure includes $7.5 million for the program, which would also cover women who as recently as 2013 were allegedly coerced into sterilizations in state prisons.
“We must address and face our horrific history,” Lorena Garcia Zermeño, policy and communications coordinator for the advocacy group California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, told the AP. California’s law was so prominent that it inspired similar practices in Nazi Germany, according to Paul Lombardo, a law professor at Georgia State University and an expert on the eugenics movement.
“The promise of eugenics at the very earliest is: ‘We could do away with all the state institutions — prisons, hospitals, asylums, orphanages,'” Lombardo told the AP. “People who were in them just wouldn’t be born after a while if you sterilized all of their parents.” Just a few hundred of the people sterilized under California’s old eugenics law are still alive today, according to research conducted by the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab.
Advocates estimate more than 600 people would be eligible for reparations, including the inmates who were sterilized more recently, the AP reported. But finding them will be difficult, with advocates predicting only about 25% of eligible people will ultimately apply for reparations and be paid, the AP said. California’s Victim Compensation Board will run the reparations program, with $2 million used to find victims through advertising and searching state records.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: THE MERCURY NEWS
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