A (Possible) First Step Toward Justice for Virginia’s Forced Sterilization Victims

By Miriam Stiefel, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Intern

Unequal scalesDuring Virginia’s shameful eugenics program, from 1927 to 1979, the Commonwealth sterilized between 7,200 and 8,300 people without their consent. The rationale? Unbelievably, the Commonwealth deemed these individuals “unfit” to procreate (read more about this program here). It is a shameful chapter of Virginia’s history.

To make matters worse, the Commonwealth has yet to provide these individuals with any form of meaningful justice. Fortunately, progress is on the horizon. On February 20th, the House of Delegates took the first step toward providing justice for these victims when it passed its version of the budget. This budget includes Budget Amendment 307 #2h, which will provide some compensation for the victims of Virginia’s forced sterilization era. It’s past time for Virginia to right its past wrongs.  This budget amendment is a first step toward providing justice for these victims, and we commend the House for its efforts.

Politicians, like those who passed the forced sterilization program, should not have the right to decide whether an individual has a child. The victims of forced sterilizations were stripped of this right, and should be fairly compensated. We urge the House and Senate conferees to ensure this amendment remains in the final budget.

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