Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kalifornia's Apology?

More like the apology of a criminal who regrets getting caught.

Davis apologizes for state's sterilization program

California started performing forced sterilizations in 1909, and the practice trailed off after the end of World War II. Patients became candidates for involuntary sterilization if they were diagnosed with "lunacy," "feeblemindedness," sexual deviancy, epilepsy and alcoholism, among other things.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1927 upheld a Virginia forced-sterilization law. The case centered around a 17-year-old girl who was determined to be "feebleminded." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, summing up the popularity that eugenics enjoyed at the time, wrote for the majority that, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

It's unclear how many survivors of forced sterilizations are alive today in California, but in 1961 two state mental health department officials interviewed former patients who had been sterilized. They concluded that 68 percent of the patients hadn't given their approval for the operation.

"They said they were going to remove my appendix and then they did that other . . . The sterilization wasn't for punishment was it?" one woman asked the researchers. "Was it because there was something wrong with my mind?"


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