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Virginia to Pay This Man for Forcibly Sterilizing Him

Lewis Reynolds is one of 11 known surviving victims
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2015 7:45 AM CST
Virginia to Pay This Man for Forcibly Sterilizing Him
Lewis Reynolds, 85, was involuntarily sterilized at age 13 under a state law intended to prevent "defective" people from reproducing.   (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Bill Sizemore)

(Newser) – Lewis Reynolds' first wife left him when she found out he couldn't father children. His second marriage lasted 47 years, until his wife's death, but he recalls how they'd sometimes cry because they could never have a biological family. Although no amount of money can fully erase those facts, the 85-year-old found out that he'll be receiving $25,000 from the state of Virginia to compensate him for the reason he couldn't have kids, the AP reports. The state had forcibly sterilized him at age 13—along with about 7,000 other victims (Reuters puts the number at closer to 8,000). Virginia's legislature yesterday approved a $400,000 measure that will result in each surviving victim—there are 11 known in the state—getting $25,000. It's now the second state to pay out to victims of forced-sterilization programs; North Carolina was the first to do so in 2013, awarding $50,000 to each victim.

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The sterilizations occurred between 1924 and 1979 under the state's Eugenical Sterilization Act, which was used as a model by some of the 32 other US states that passed similar legislation—and by Adolf Hitler. Forced sterilization was also common during that time in countries such as Canada, Japan, and Sweden, the BBC notes. As for Virginia, its law was upheld in a 1927 Supreme Court case in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Reynolds, who was sterilized for supposed epilepsy (his symptoms were actually temporary ones tied to his being hit in the head with a rock), tells the AP, "I think they done me wrong. I couldn't have a family like everybody else does. They took my rights away." (Read more Virginia stories.)

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