Press Release

McHenry Eugenics Compensation Legislation Becomes Law

Senate companion bill was signed into law by President Obama earlier today

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Washington, October 7, 2016 | Jeff Butler (202-225-2576) | comments

President Barack Obama signed S. 1698, the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act into law. S. 1698 assists victims of state-sponsored eugenics programs by exempting all payments received from state eugenics compensation programs from being considered as income when determining eligibility for federal benefits. In July of 2015, Congressman McHenry introduced H.R. 2949 which is the identical, House companion legislation to S. 1698.

"This is an important day for our fellow North Carolinians who were victimized by our state's eugenics program," said Congressman McHenry. "While we can never fully compensate for all their suffering, S. 1698 becoming law ensures they can now accept the compensation they deserve without fear of losing access to the social safety net. This law is the product of over fifteen months of bipartisan and bicameral work with my North Carolina colleagues and I'm proud to see it signed into law today."

S. 1698, which was introduced by Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, passed the Senate by unanimous consent on November 30, 2015. It passed the House on September 27, 2016 by a voice vote. Congressman McHenry spoke on the House floor in support of passage. Video of those remarks can be found here.


During the early decades of the 20th century, over 30 states implemented eugenics or compulsory sterilization laws which led to the mandated sterilization of more than 60,000 citizens. Those sterilized were overwhelmingly poor and were often unaware they were being victimized. At the time, North Carolina was known to have one of the most aggressive sterilization programs, with only two states having been known to sterilize more of their citizens.

In 2013, North Carolina passed legislation becoming the first state to compensate victims of forced sterilization. This legislation set aside $10 million in the state budget to compensate victims of the state's eugenics program. As of the beginning of 2015, more than 200 victims have been awarded approximately $20,000 each in compensation.

H.R. 2949 was introduced to further assist victims of these programs by ensuring the payments victims receive do not count towards their eligibility for, or amount of, any benefits they receive from the Federal government. This includes Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), unemployment, Supplemental Security Income, and any other Federal benefits.

H.R. 2949's companion legislation in the Senate, S. 1698, was introduced by North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.


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