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Waste no time

The state should quickly apologize for sterilizing defective people

There can be no question that the state of Oregon owes an apology to people who were sterilized against their will and often without their knowledge under a bizarre law based on the practice of eugenics.

Oregon's sterilization law was in effect from 1917 to 1983. Thirty-two other states also enacted eugenics laws during the first quarter of the 20th century.

Eugenics is a pseudo-scientific movement that sought to improve the human race by preventing the so-called unfit from having children.

A group met with Gov. John Kitzhaber's adviser on health care earlier this week to discuss the issue and formally requested an apology. A spokesman said the governor's office is not averse to making a apology.

That's not good enough. The governor ' especially this governor ' should waste no time putting to rest this shameful chapter in the state's history.

The premise of eugenics, long ago thoroughly discredited by legitimate science, was used in Nazi Germany to justify murdering hundreds of thousands of people. While the law was in effect in Oregon, more than 2,500 people reportedly were subjected to sterilization, but it's impossible to know for sure because key records have been destroyed.

The state's policies were used to prevent defectives from having children, including anyone considered feeble-minded, insane, epileptic, a habitual criminal or sexual pervert who is likely to become a menace to society, as well as people convicted of rape or sodomy.

In many cases, the people subject to sterilization were never told what had been done to them.

After 1967, the law was chiefly used to sterilize those with mental illness or mental disability. The law was repealed in 1983.

As a legislator, Kitzhaber served on the joint committee that helped to repeal the law. He should move quickly to issue an official and heartfelt apology to all Oregonians who were victimized by this barbaric practice.