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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Virginia apologises for eugenics policy
Rose Brooks and Jesse Meadows unveil of a roadside historical marker commemorating legislation allowing eugenics in Virginia
A memorial was unveiled by two victims of eugenics
The state of Virginia has become the first American state to apologise for the forced sterilisation of thousands of its citizens as part of a eugenics, or selective breeding, programme in the last century.

In all, 30 states conducted sterilisation programmes - in Virginia's case until 1979 - in an effort to wipe out human deficiencies and vices assumed to be hereditary.

Today, I offer the Commonwealth's sincere apology for Virginia's participation in eugenics

Governor Mark Warner
Virginia Governor Mark Warner called the programme a "shameful effort" which the state government should never have been involved in.

Starting in 1924, more than 7,000 people considered genetically inferior - most of them poor, uneducated, black or mentally retarded - were forcibly sterilised in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"We must remember the Commonwealth's past mistakes in order to prevent them from recurring," Mr Warner said in the statement.

The statement was read out during the unveiling of a memorial to Carrie Buck, who was an 18-year-old unwed mother when she became the first person forcibly sterilised under Virginia's 1924 law.

'Pretty good' apology

The apology coincides with the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1927 decision upholding the sterilisation legislation.

In all more than 60,000 people are thought to have been sterilised in the US in the name of eugenics.

Sixty-one-year-old Rose Brooks, herself a victim of Virginia's eugenics programme, helped unveil the memorial and declared the state governor's apology "pretty good".

She was sterilised at Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded in 1957 after having twin boys out of wedlock. The children were taken from her and adopted.

Another victim, 71-year-old Jesse Meadows, participated in the unveiling.

Virginia's General Assembly passed a resolution in 2001 expressing "profound regret" for the eugenics programme, but it stopped short of a formal apology because of fears that might expose the state to lawsuits.

See also:

26 Apr 02 | Health
Call for re-think on eugenics
18 May 00 | Health
Sterilisation ruling overturned
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