August 5, 2012
On Monday's 85th anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized state-mandated sterilizations of "undesirables," a Virginia lawmaker is proposing the state offer token reparations to victims still living.
Democratic Delegate Patrick Hope of Alexandria is asking Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and the General Assembly for "a symbolic payment" to people institutionalized and forced to undergo surgical sterilizations under the discredited pseudoscience of "eugenics."
Virginia's legislature in 2001 adopted a statement of regret for the eugenics law that stayed on the books until 1979. In 2002, then-Gov. Mark Warner issued a formal apology for it.
Good intentions aside, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias warns that payments - symbolic or otherwise - for such past wrongs could invite expensive litigation against the state.