Apology for Oregon Forced Sterilizations

From Associated Press

Gov. John Kitzhaber formally apologized Monday for an old eugenics law that led to the forced sterilization of hundreds of Oregonians.

Girls in reform school, people in mental institutions and poor women selected by welfare workers were among the more than 2,500 Oregonians subjected to sterilizations under a law that stood from 1917 to 1983.

“To those who suffered, I say the people of Oregon are sorry,” Kitzhaber said at a ceremony in his office. “Our hearts are heavy for the pain you endured.”


He is the second governor to atone for state eugenics laws after Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who also erected a memorial in May to the first woman sterilized under the policy.

Among those who crowded into Kitzhaber’s office for Monday’s ceremony was Velma Hayes, 68, who was sterilized at age 15 while living at the state-run Fairview Training Center, an institution for the mentally ill.

Hayes called the state’s acknowledgment of wrongdoing “long overdue,” but praised Kitzhaber’s bid to make things right.

But not everyone was satisfied. Ken Newman, 61, who said he was given a vasectomy without his consent when he was a teenager living at Fairview, said the governor’s remarks don’t erase what happened. “I want more than an apology. I want to be compensated,” he said.