Calif. Gov. Apologizes for Sterlizations
SACRAMENTO - (AP) Gov. Gray Davis apologized for a state law passed nearly a century ago that resulted in the involuntary sterilization of about 19,000 Californians.
Davis' announcement Tuesday places California among a handful of states that have issued formal regrets regarding eugenics, a movement that eventually sterilized 60,000 mentally ill people in 32 states.
"To the victims and their families of this past injustice, the people of California are deeply sorry for the suffering you endured over the years," Davis said in a statement. "Our hearts are heavy for the pain caused by eugenics. It was a sad and regrettable chapter in the state's history, and it is one that must never be repeated again."
California enacted its eugenics law in 1909, becoming the second state to adopt forced sterilization as law. It accounted for a third of the total cases nationally during the years eugenics was state policy. Officials said most of the sterilizations in California were before World War II.
Eugenics was intended to "clean up the gene pool," said Paul Lombardo, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
It is unknown how many forced-sterilization victims are now living in California because there are no case records, and it would be difficult for survivors to collect damages anyway, because the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of forced sterilization in 1927.
Davis' apology followed similar actions in other states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon and South Carolina, and did not propose any form of compensation for the victims or their families.