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Virginia Legislator Confronts Virginia's Dark History Of Eugenics

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One legislator from Arlington is seeking compensation for victims forced sterilization, the echoes of a part of a dark chapter in the history of Virginia.

Nobody knows the exact number of people in Virginia forced to undergo sterilizations, although estimates range from 7,500 to 8,000. Democratic Del. Patrick Hope says thousands of those people may still be alive today, and he's calling on the governor and General Assembly to study the issue.

"Most people equate it with Nazi Germany," says Hope. "But in fact, it originated right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Hope is asking the governor and the General Assembly to try to track down survivors of Virginia's infamous program of forced sterilization, and wants to put together a task force to track down survivors and determine just compensation. Hope says people who are wrongfully convicted are awarded $40,000 a year in Virginia, and he says the commonwealth should look at ways to address the harm caused by the theory of eugenics in Virginia.

Hope's effort is inspired by a similar initiative in North Carolina, where the state legislature is considering a $10 million package to compensate victims of forced sterilization.

"It was kind of a bad end of a good idea, which was Darwinism," says George Mason University professor Andrew Light. "So the idea was to direct the evolution of mankind."

This year is the 85th anniversary of a Supreme Court decision upholding the 1920s-era Virginia law, which was used as a template for several other states.

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