"The Eugenics Apologies"
By Dave Reynolds (For the Ragged Edge)
November 23, 2003
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON--This month's cover story of the Ragged Edge Magazine is an article I wrote about the recent apologies by five governors for their states' role in the American eugenics movement.
The article provides some background on the laws that allowed or required surgical sterilizations of more than 60,000 people -- most with physical and mental disabilities -- in the U.S. during the last century.
It also focuses on the behind-the-scenes efforts of two determined disability rights advocates, Phil Theisen and Keith Kessler, who nearly single-handedly scored the first apology from Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner in May 2002. Apologies from the governors of Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina and California followed quickly over the next several months -- perhaps too quickly.
"It's good to have the apologies, but I think some of this was done quickly in order to deflect an in-depth review of what happened," Theisen told me. "They should reflect on what went on in each state. More details being disclosed would have created more public awareness."
Theisen and Kessler are now pushing for a Congressional investigation into the part the federal government may have played in the eugenics movement. After the investigation, they'd like to see an apology from the President and a possible day of recognition for the victims.
"The federal government had to know something about it if 33 states were doing this," said Kessler, founder of Virginia's Disabled Action Committee.
So far, letters to President Bush have not been answered.
"The eugenics apologies" by Dave Reynolds (Ragged Edge Magazine)
"Virginia's Eugenics Legacy" (Inclusion Daily Express)