Throughout the late 1900s to the late 1970s, the state of California implemented unthinkable acts of eugenics. With the mindset of “improving the human race,” California worked to sterilize upwards of 20,000 people carrying “undesirable traits” so that they would not bear children.” The victims of California’s sterilization efforts included people with mental illnesses, physical disabilities, women who were considered too sexual, and people of color. Victims also included people as young as 13-years-of age.

Of course, no dollar amount could make up for the pain and humiliation of these acts.

Loading the player...

The state of California has set aside $7.5 million for a reparations program to give to victims.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “California’s proposal is unique because it would apply to more than just victims of the eugenics law that was repealed in 1979. The state also would pay female prison inmates who were coerced into getting sterilized, a disgrace first exposed by the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2013.”

A later report found that California’s sterilization programs continued between 2005 and 2013, where it sterilized 144 female prisoners “with little or no evidence that officials counseled them or offered alternative treatment.” It’s been noted that while all of the women during this time signed consent forms, “in 39 cases, state officials did not do everything that was legally required to obtain their permission” more, the reports found that many of the women were coerced into taking part in sterilizations.

Speaking about the reparations efforts, Lorena Garcia Zermeño, who works as a policy and communications coordinator for California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, told the LA Times that “We must address and face our horrific history… This isn’t something that just happened in the past.”

California recently became the third state in the U.S. to try to make things right for victims of the “eugenics movement”.

In 2013 and 2015, North Carolina and Virginia respectively approved payouts to survivors of forced sterilization programs implemented by the states.

In regards to the future, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo of Los Angeles calls this effort “only the begging.”

“I can’t imagine the trauma, the depression, the stress of being incarcerated,” She told the La Times. “Being rehabilitated, and trying to start your life again in society, wanting to start a family, only to find out that that choice was taken away from you.”