VIRGINIA

Va. House to vote on forced sterilization compensation bill

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Lewis Reynolds was a Marine in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He won medals, saw combat and qualified to fight. But not to bear children.

He and thousands of others in Virginia were unknowingly or forcibly  sterilized after they were deemed "defective."

A part of a nationwide eugenics movement, the practice occurred at institutions in the Commonwealth between 1924 and 1979. The movement was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1927.

A bipartisan bill currently in the Virginia House aims to compensate surviving victims of forced sterilization.

Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, said, "Many people were forcibly sterilized when they were quite young, and they have no memory of it. So they may not even come forward. But we think that we're talking about a universe of just a couple hundred people, and what we're asking for is $50,000 per victim."

"Virginia led the way in this. Let's lead the way in doing the right thing and close this dark chapter...," Hope continued.

Reynolds' first marriage ended in divorce - she wanted children.

The compensation language is included in a proposed budget a House committee is due to vote on Feb. 3.

If the language survives and is contained in the proposed budget, it will move on to the Senate in conference committee. If it doesn't survive, Hope plans to propose a budget amendment on the House floor next week and force a vote.

Only surviving victims would qualify for the compensation, not spouses or family members.

About six or seven people have come forward so far.

But there are money concerns, especially if sequestration hits. Critics also fear sterilization compensation will open a can of worms for other groups who've been hurt by past state policies or actions.

Governor Bob McDonnell has not responded to request to meet with the victims.

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