State Sponsored Sterilization: The Dark History Of Eugenics in Oregon

June 25, 2018 7PM

In 1917, the Oregon Legislature created the Oregon Board of Eugenics. Its charge was to review reports from the Oregon State Penitentiary, the state hospitals, and the State Institution for the Feeble-Minded of “all feeble-minded, insane, epileptic, habitual criminals, moral degenerates, and sexual perverts, who are persons potential to producing offspring who, because of inheritance of inferior or antisocial traits, would probably become a social menace or ward of the State.” Based on its determinations about those persons, the board was required to order many of them to be sterilized. The Oregon Board of Eugenics was part of a much larger trend towards racial purity and xenophobia in the United States that included “Better Baby” contests and the “Fitter Families” program to ensure racial purity. The eugenics movement mostly died out in the 1940s, when it came to light that Adolph Hitler had patterned the extermination of the Jewish population on the American eugenics movement. Surprisingly, the Oregon State Board of Eugenics survived in one form or another until 1983.

Marc Brown is the chief deputy defender with the Appellate Division of the Office of Public Defense Services. Brown spent several years teaching political science at Washington State University-Vancouver. In 2014, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at the South China University of Technology School of Law, and, in 2017, Marc co-taught a comparative constitutional law course at Shivaji University College of Law in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India.