Bipartisan Tillis bill establishing protections for victims of state-run eugenics becomes law

President Barack Obama recently signed legislation into law that U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) co-authored to establish protections for living eugenics victims receiving compensation payments.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, compulsory sterilization laws and state-run eugenics victimized 60,000 Americans. North Carolina became the first state to create a victim compensation fund for victims of forced sterilization in 2013.

The Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act, S. 1698, would exclude eugenics compensation payments from eligibility determinations for federal safety net programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and Social Security programs.

“Passage of this legislation caps off a long quest for justice for the victims of North Carolina’s shameful eugenics and sterilization program,” Tillis said. “When we established the compensation program for victims in North Carolina, we certainly didn’t intend to jeopardize their access to critical federal safety net programs through a legal technicality. They have suffered long enough, and I commend my colleagues in the House and Senate who have stood with these brave survivors to pass this legislation and bring relief.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), a cosponsor of the bipartisan bill, said that the government “robbed” individuals who were subjected to eugenics.

“We can never restore the families that were irreparably damaged, but we can ensure that eugenics victims who are eligible for compensation do not also have to endure their benefits being cut,” Burr said. “Eugenics was a dark chapter in our history.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), who co-authored the bill with Tillis, said that people were subjected to horrifying sterilization practices as a result of misguided eugenics programs.

“These individuals shouldn’t be penalized for compensation funds that they have received for their suffering, especially because it can never repair the pain they’ve had to endure,” Carper said. “I’m proud that Congress came together across party lines to approve this important effort to ensure that no person loses important federal benefits because they received this type of compensation.”

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