- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina doesn’t have to compensate a woman involuntarily sterilized at the behest of a county social services worker because there’s no evidence that the State Eugenics board was involved, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a state commission’s determination that the woman was ineligible for payment under a state law to compensate people involuntarily sterilized as part of a state program that ran through the 1970s.

Court documents say the woman was coerced into having an abortion and a sterilization procedure in 1974 by a worker from the Cleveland County Department of Social Services who threatened to take her two daughters.

The woman’s attorney argues that the county agency was functioning as an arm of the state’s social services system, and that the county worker was acting under authority of state law regarding sterilizations.

Attorney Bobby Bollinger Jr. wrote in his appeal that the worker “was an agent of the State” and that his client’s claim shouldn’t be denied just because there is a no documentation proving involvement of the Eugenics Board.

However, the Appeals Court ruled that the lack of documentation means the woman can’t prove that she meets requirements for compensation. A 2013 state law requires claimants to show they were sterilized under state authority.

The judges wrote that there was “no … evidence that the Eugenics Board was ever informed of Claimant’s involuntary sterilization, nor that it was consulted in the matter in any way.”

The court didn’t give the full name of the woman, who was 22 at the time.

State officials have previously said claims could be denied because of a lack of documentation or a determination that sterilization was ordered at the county level.

In separate rulings on Tuesday, the appeals court said it didn’t have jurisdiction to consider families’ efforts to claim money for three people who died before a cutoff date in the compensation program. State law said claimants had to be living as of June 30, 2013.

Attorneys representing estates of three people who died before 2013 have argued that heirs shouldn’t be denied compensation because of what they see as an arbitrary cutoff. The appeals judges said Wake County Superior Court was the proper venue for the case because of rules regarding certain challenges to state laws.

Between 1929 and 1974, about 7,600 people deemed “feeble-minded” or otherwise undesirable were sterilized in North Carolina. Some were children considered promiscuous or troublemakers, while others were adults who were determined to be incompetent. Most were forced or coerced into the procedures.

The state apologized for the sterilizations in 2002, but it took another decade for lawmakers to set up the financial compensation program.

By late last year, more than 200 people sterilized under the program had received payments of $35,000 each. North Carolina was the first state to pay compensation to victims of a government-run sterilization program.

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