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NC Victims of Forced Sterilization Urged to Call Hotline

As families gather for the holidays, a state-funded organization is hoping they'll have what many may consider an uncomfortable conversation. The North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation was created to support people who were forcibly sterilized by the state. More than 7,000 men and women were victims of the program, which lasted until 1974 and targeted people who were mentally ill or living in poverty. WFAE's Julie Rose spoke with Charmaine Fuller Cooper, who directs the Sterilization Victims Foundation. Dozens of calls have already come in to the Sterilization Victims hotline which was established by Governor Bev Perdue less than a month ago. Charmaine Fuller Cooper says forced sterilization programs were common in the U.S. during the 30s and 40s, but North Carolina was a little different in that it allowed social workers to petition the Eugenics Board for a person's sterilization. "The social worker might say that a family may have had too many children or didn't have enough income to support family members," says Fuller Cooper. "Or they'd say that because a person had epilepsy or a health disorder or physical disorder that person should have been sterilized." Fuller Cooper says many of the victims didn't know they were being sterilized during a surgical procedure for another purpose. People who call the new support hotline can have their names searched in the state's Eugenics Board records. The Legislature has not approved any financial compensation for victims, but in the coming months Governor Perdue will appoint a task force to consider that option. The North Carolina Sterilization Victims hotline is 1-877-550-6013. More information is available at www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov