By Jim Brumm
WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - North Carolina should compensate the surviving victims of the state's forced sterilization program, the Governor's Eugenics Compensation Task Force recommended on Monday.
The task force also said the state should pay for mental health services for the fewer than 2,000 of the nearly 7,600 residents forcibly sterilized from 1929 to 1974 who are believed to be still alive.
The preliminary report did not settle on an amount for financial damages. The task force said it had discussed providing between $20,000 and $50,000 to each verified living victim and recognized an "urgent need" to move forward.
The task force acknowledged that "no amount of money can replace or give value to what has been done to nearly 7,600 people -- men, women, boys, girls, African Americans, whites, American Indians, the poor, undereducated, and disabled -- who our state and its citizens judged, targeted, and labeled 'morons,' 'unfit,' and 'feebleminded.'"
If payments are ultimately approved, North Carolina would become the first state to do more than apologize for forced sterilizations, which were popular in the United States during the 1930s, the task force said.
At one time, more than 30 states had eugenics programs, but most were abolished after World War II, the report said.
A final report is due in six months. Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue, who created the five-member task force in March, had no comment on Monday on the recommendations.
Spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said Perdue looked forward to reviewing the newly issued report.
"North Carolina's Eugenics Board program produced the majority of its sterilizations after World War II, resulting in North Carolina having more surviving victims than other states," the report said.
During the peak years between July 1946 and June 1968, women and girls accounted for 85 percent of the state's sterilization victims, who also included boys and girls as young as 10, the report said.
In a presentation in April, statistician Don Akin said the majority of those sterilized under the North Carolina's program prior to the 1950s were white females.
Akin said sterilizations peaked in the 1950s, with nearly 3,000 performed in that decade. Another 1,600 sterilizations were performed during the 1960s, he added.
There was a dramatic shift in the demographics of people sterilized after the 1950s, when the "vast majority ... were 'non-white' females," said Akin, who works for the State Center for Health Statistics.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)