California to pay victims of forced, coerced sterilizations

Wendy Carrillo

FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles speaks in the Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. California lawmakers approved Carrillo’s measure to approve reparations for victims who were forcibly sterilized by the state. The state’s new budget, that is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, includes $7.5 million for the program. Carrillo said the goal is to pay victims $25,000 each. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers have approved reparations for people — some as young as 13 — who were either forcibly or coercively sterilized decades ago by the state because the government deemed them unfit to have children.

A new budget that’s awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature includes $7.5 million for the program. Lawmakers who support the payments said the goal is to pay victims $25,000 each. North Carolina and Virginia also have approved reparations for forced sterilization victims in recent years.

California’s forced sterilization program began in 1909, folloing similar laws in Indiana and Washington, and lasted until 1979. It forcibly sterilized 20,000 people with mental illnesses, physical disabilities and other traits deemed undesirable. It was by far the largest program, accounting for about a third of everyone sterilized in the United States under those laws.

California’s proposal is unique because it also would pay women the state coerced to get sterilized while they were in prison, some as recently as 2010. A state audit in 2014 found 144 women were sterilized in prison between 2005 and 2013 with little or no evidence that officials counseled them or offered alternative treatment. While all of the women signed consent forms, officials in 39 cases did not do everything that was legally required to obtain their permission.

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