Indiana apologizes for role in eugenics

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An Indiana official publicly apologized for the state's role 100 years ago in pioneering state-authorized sterilization of "imbeciles," paupers and others it deemed undesirable.

Health Commissioner Dr. Judith Monroe expressed regret on behalf of the state Thursday for its passing of the first such eugenics law. She also unveiled a historic marker that will stand across from the Statehouse.

"It is one (law) 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 then, 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 was joined by one of the last people in Indiana to be sterilized, Jamie Renae Coleman, in unveiling the historic marker. It is 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.

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