Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is at odds with fellow Republicans over whether victims of the state’s involuntary sterilization program 50 years ago can sue the state for compensation.
The state’s top lawyer released a legal opinion recently that said the state can’t be sued in its own courts and therefore “it is unlikely that a claimant could successfully bring an action against the commonwealth for having been sterilized.”
That runs afoul of Republican lawmakers, who were pushing legislation earlier this year that would give $50,000 to each of the victims of a state eugenics program — at a total cost of $15.5 million. But lawmakers killed the bill, saying eugenics victims can sue the state so there’s no need to offer them payments. Cuccinelli’s opinion that they can’t sue revived prospects for the bill.
“I don’t want to disagree with the attorney general,” said Del. John O’Bannon, R-Richmond. “There’s something inconsistent here.”
A Supreme Court ruling a half-century ago allowed states to sterilize mentally ill men and women to prevent them from reproducing. In what is now considered a dark period in Virginia history, the state sterilized about 7,300 people against their will between 1924 and 1979.
Dels. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, and Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, proposed compensating the victims of eugenics during the General Assembly session earlier this year. But the plan died in a House subcommittee.
Just out of curiosity, how do we know it was against their will? How do we know their opinion? Did the writer mean to say without their permission? Was something similar done to the mentally challenged? Did they have a guardian? Did the guardian give permission?
According to Wikipedia, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 allowed this form of eugenics in Virginia:
These two laws were Virginia’s implementation of Harry Laughlin‘s “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law”, published two years earlier in 1922. The Sterilization Act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927). This had appealed the order for compulsory sterilization of Carrie Buck, who was an inmate in the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, and her daughter and mother.
As horrified as we are today, eugenics was a fairly common practice under many different guises during that time period. In many cases, it wasn’t quite as draconian as it sounds today. Many social reformers wanted to create a happier, more productive society that was free of some of the afflictions they felt were preventable. Today we tend to associate this type of social engineering with Nazis. I suppose I am suggesting that the intent wasn’t as evil as it sounds. Today we are horrified at such practices. Something I can forgive in the 1920’s should not have gone on until 1979! Additionally, as shown above, the sterilizations weren’t just performed on the mentally ill.
As to the Cuccinelli ruling, Bob Marshall v. Ken Cuccinelli? Hmmmmmmm…..can we just let them duke it out?
A State Marker was erected at the intersection of Grady and Preston Avenues in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Inscription on the State marker:
In 1924, Virginia, like a majority
of states then, enacted eugenic sterilization laws. Virginia’s law allowed state
institutions to operate on individuals to prevent the conception of what were
believed to be “genetically inferior” children. Charlottesville native Carrie
Buck (1906–1983), involuntarily committed to a state facility near Lynchburg,
was chosen as the first person to be sterilized under the new law. The U.S.
Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell, on 2 May 1927, affirmed the Virginia law. After
Buck more than 8,000 other Virginians were sterilized before the most relevant
parts of the Act were repealed in 1974. Later evidence eventually showed that
Buck and many others had no “hereditary defects.” She is buried south of here.