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Virginia lawmakers OK payout to forced sterilization survivors

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - Virginia would pay the handful of survivors of a forced sterilization program $25,000 each in compensation under a measure approved by the U.S. state’s legislature on Thursday.

Virginia forcibly sterilized those it viewed as social misfits or mentally deficient, among others from the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s, when the program officially ended. More than 8,000 people were sterilized.

The compensation plan was part of an amended two-year, roughly $96 billion budget package approved by the Republican-dominated legislature. Only about 11 people who underwent sterilization are known to be still alive, and the fund totals $400,000.

“I think it’s a recognition when we do something wrong we need to fix it as a government,” said Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat from northern Virginia’s Arlington County. “Now we can close this final chapter and healing can begin.”

Hope said that if other sterilization victims came forward, they would need to be compensated.

He said the state’s eugenics program was the model used by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler aimed at creating a master race. The eugenics movement claimed to improve human genetic features through selective breeding and sterilization.

North Carolina was the first state to compensate victims for forced sterilizations, setting aside $10 million as compensation in 2013.

A North Carolina task force reported that at one time more than 30 states had forcible sterilization programs. They were used during the 1930s but most were abolished after World War Two.

The budget and compensation proposal was moved to Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe for consideration. He praised the bipartisan cooperation on the spending blueprint and said he would review it.

In 2002, then-Governor Mark Warner, a Democrat, publicly apologized for the eugenics program.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Gunna Dickson