Skip to comments.Indiana Apologizes for Role in Eugenics
Posted on 04/13/2007 2:18:02 AM PDT by bd476
Indiana Apologizes for Role in Eugenics
Indiana's Health Commissioner Apologizes for State's Role in Developing Eugenics
By KEN KUSMER
The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS April 13, 2007 (AP)— - Indiana sought to atone for its role in pioneering the state-authorized sterilization of "imbeciles," paupers and others it deemed undesirable, expressing regret for passing the first such law 100 years ago.
Health Commissioner Dr. Judith Monroe said Thursday at a symposium at the Indiana State Library that Indiana needed to acknowledge and learn from its role in developing eugenics.
"It is one that we do regret but we should not forget," she said.
In 1907, then-Gov. J. Frank Hanly signed a state law widely regarded as the first in the world to permit sterilization in a misguided effort to improve the quality of the human race.
The practice was not ended until 1974, by which time Indiana had sterilized about 2,500 people; nationally, 65,000 people in 30 states were given state-authorized vasectomies, tubal ligations and other operations.
Monroe joined one of the last people in Indiana to be sterilized, Jamie Renae Coleman of Auburn, unveiling a historic marker that will stand across from the Statehouse. It stands as a reminder to lawmakers and others that decisions made with the best of intentions sometimes can have dire ramifications.
Coleman was 15 years old in 1971 when a county judge gave her mother approval to have a doctor perform a tubal ligation on her under the guise of having her appendix removed.
In court papers, her mother said Coleman was "somewhat retarded." But Coleman said the real reason her mother wanted her sterilized was that an older, unmarried sister had just become pregnant and their mother worried about being stuck with raising grandchildren.
Coleman was 17, married and eager to have children when she learned the truth about her surgery.
"Oh gosh, I didn't want to live. I hated my mother. I hated everybody that did this to me," she said.
Coleman sued her mother, the doctor and the judge in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in a landmark 1978 decision granting judges immunity in official actions.
Other state legislatures had approved sterilizations, but unlike Hanly, governors in those states refused to sign the measures into law.
John Dickerson, executive director of ARC of Indiana, which advocates on behalf of developmentally disabled people and their families, said eugenics was a simplistic answer to a complex problem.
He said such solutions remain a threat to vulnerable populations unless society remains vigilant.
"Always, the minority's rights can be infringed," Dickerson said.
On the Net:
Indiana Eugenics: Eugenics
February 28, 2007
Symposium and Exhibit Recognize 100 Year Anniversary of Indiana Eugenics Legislation: Hoosier State Led World In Enactment of Involuntary Sterilization Laws
INDIANAPOLIS — One of the darkest chapters of social policy will be explored in a public symposium and exhibit in April focusing on Indiana's enactment of the world's first eugenic sterilization law in 1907. The event and exhibit will examine the relevance of the history of sterilization and other eugenic measures to contemporary issues in human genetics, public health, reproductive health, mental health, and the law.
In 1907 Indiana Gov. Frank Hanly signed into law the Compulsory Sterilization Law of Indiana, a bill providing for involuntary sterilization "to prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists." Found unconstitutional by the Indiana Supreme Court 14 years later, a revised bill was enacted in 1927 applying to "inmates of state institutions, who are insane, idiotic, imbecile, feebleminded, and epileptic, and who by the laws of heredity are the probable potential parents of socially inadequate offspring likewise afflicted." This law remained in force until repealed by the Indiana General Assembly in 1974.
During the period the law was in force, approximately 2,500 of Indiana's most vulnerable citizens in state custody were involuntarily sterilized. Because similar laws were passed in 29 other states, historians estimate 65,000 people were involuntarily sterilized in the United States.
"A century ago supporters viewed surgical sterilization as part of a broader eugenics program, including immigration and marriage restriction, whose goal was to better the human race by preventing reproduction of those with 'inferior' hereditary traits, such as criminality and the other conditions described in the legislation. They claimed their policy was based on the best science of the day, and through the 1930s there was only ineffective opposition from the scientific and medical community," said William Schneider, Ph.D., professor of history and Constance M. Baker and Robert S. Ort Chair in International Healthcare Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Dr. Schneider is a medical historian and principal coordinator of the public symposium and exhibit being held to mark the centennial of the enactment of the first eugenics legislation.
"Eugenics has long occupied a frightening place in the history of medicine and science, from the Nazi death camps to the maltreatment of patients with mental disorders. We are only now beginning to study state-sponsored eugenics programs in the U.S., what we learn from the past will help society make better decisions about how best to use the power of science for the good of humanity in the future," said Eric M. Meslin, Ph.D., director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics and assistant dean for bioethics at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
The public symposium, "Indiana Eugenics: History and Legacy," will be at the Indiana State Library, 140 N. Senate Avenue, Indianapolis on April 12 from 8:30 am – noon. It is sponsored by the Indiana University schools of medicine, law and liberal arts at IUPUI.
Featured speakers include Daniel Kevles, Ph.D., of Yale University and Joe Palca of National Public Radio. A roundtable discussion with Dr. Schneider, Dr. Meslin, and other professionals in medicine, law and history will follow from 2 to 5 p.m. also at the State Library.
A companion exhibit at the Indiana State Library featuring original documents from the period opens April 12 and will run through August.
The exhibit was created in partnership with the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In addition to the general public, school and other groups are welcome. There is no admission fee.
Admission to the symposium is free, but space is limited and prior registration is required.
For further information, including online media resources, visit the official Indiana Eugenics: History & Legacy website at www.bioethics.iupui.edu/Eugenics/index.htm.
Indiana University School of Medicine Press Release: Eugenics
“Led World?” Hyperbole. What the state did in the past was stupid, but there were others, like perhaps...oh, I don’t know...Mengele, who did a lot worse.
Kudos to Indiana.
You can hear champagne corks going off in law offices all over the nation.
Tis a fact we know where “Adolf the Leftist” got some of his ideas.
I apologize completely for anything wrong ever commited by:
Even though there is no way I was alive in those times or have anything to do with them, I am deeply regretful. I shall dedicate my life to building a time machine and right all those wrongs committed by my various people.
Right after I win the lottery.
Well, has it worked? Does Indiana enjoy fewer imbeciles and undesirables in comparison with the states which did not try sterilizations?
[Kudos to Indiana.]
Apparently we were ahead of our time? Naw. Crazy scientists playing God? Fighting Crime before it groes up?
I had no idea.
[No sir, it did not work. A quick survey of the elected officials in Indiana will prove that.]
I’m not so sure. I’ve lived in several interesting places in these United States. As a state, IN is very conservative. Couple that with the the fact that Indianapolis is the most coservative of the 15 largest cities in the nation and there is something to be said for us. The big cities seem to draw those less able and more dependent, hence they tend to creep left (or fall). Big liberal cities tend to take over the popular leanings of entire states. Look at Illinois.
In short, I can’t point to how or why IN is different, but compared to MI, IL and OH, Indiana seems the most grounded with a sharper gene pool. Whether this is from gene pool clean up 100 years ago or not, I cannot say.
[I did not indeed for my statement to mean that Indiana was not head and shoulders above the 3 states you mentioned. Just that we still have a good supply of moron’s. Take Julia Carson, please. She is the D Rep. from the Indianapolis area. She is continually reelected, and it is a well known fact she is illiterate. Need I go on.]
Your point is well made. I can’t argue the point about Julia Carson. I am still befuddled. I just do not understand that one.
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