Virginia lawmakers have announced that people who were forcibly sterilized under a eugenics program that was in effect in the state for decades during the last century will receive financial compensation. Over 8,000 Virginians were operated on under the program, which ran from the 1920s to the 1970s, during which people viewed as physically or mentally deficient, or socially undesirable, were sterilized by the state.
More than a fifth of those sterilized were African-Americans, and two thirds of those affected were women -- many of whom entered treatment facilities for other procedures and were unaware of what was happening to them -- according to the BBC.
While very few of those affected by the program are still alive, at least 11 survivors will receive payments of $25,000 each as compensation.
Virginia is the second U.S. state to compensate the victims of such programs, which were undertaken in 30 states during the last century. In 2013, North Carolina approved payments of $50,000 to victims of a similar scheme run in that state.
"I think they done me wrong," Lewis Reynolds, who was involuntarily sterilized by Virginia because of an erroneous diagnosis of epilepsy at age 13, told The Associated Press. "I couldn't have a family like everybody else does. They took my rights away."
"I think it’s a recognition when we do something wrong we need to fix it as a government," Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat from northern Virginia's Arlington County told Reuters. "Now we can close this final chapter and healing can begin.”
He added that the state's eugenics program was the model used by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler aimed at creating a master race.
Eugenics was a movement that sought to improve the genetic quality of the human population by selectively breeding people who were perceived to have desirable attributes, and the sterilization of people with supposedly undesirable physical, mental or social qualities.
It was given credence by many Western governments for a time during the 20th century, but has since been dismissed by scientists as a fundamentally flawed theory which is highly susceptible to politically motivated misuse.