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Sterilization Suit Dismissed

March 10, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ It bothers Fred Aslin that he has no biological sons, but what upsets him even more is why.

Aslin, who turns 74 today, said the state sterilized him against his will when he was just 18.

``They said I was so retarded that my kids would be retarded if we had any kids,″ Aslin said Thursday. ``I never signed the paper and they never approached me with a hearing or anything.″

He sued the state last year for violating his civil rights, but an Ingham County Circuit Court judge dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the state’s three-year statute of limitations had run out.

His attorney, Lisa McNiff, said he has no plans to appeal.

``I’ve spoken with Fred and we feel that it’s fruitless to appeal at this point,″ McNiff said. ``Our chances in the Court of Appeals are not good.″

Aslin was 10 years old and living with his four brothers and four sisters when his father died at the height of the Depression. The state took him and his siblings from their mother, arguing that she was unable to care for them.

They were then placed in the Lapeer State School, a mental institution in Michigan. Aslin said he was sterilized in 1944 because school officials believed he was developmentally disabled. He said some of his siblings also were sterilized.

Aslin used the Freedom of Information Act to request his records, which he said labeled him ``a feeble-minded moron″ while also showing he received praise for his academic performance.

Aslin said he was sterilized even though he refused to sign papers authorizing the procedure.

``I said, `No, I’m not going to sign that.′ I didn’t want to be cut on. I don’t want anyone cutting on me. I didn’t realize at the time that sterilization is what it is.″

After a hearing Aslin says he was not allowed to attend, a probate judge signed papers ordering the procedure.

Aslin left Lapeer in 1948 and was drafted into the Army. He served in the Korean War, was wounded and returned to marry a widow and help raise her two infant children.

Though Aslin has no legal recourse, he has received a formal letter of apology from James K. Haveman Jr., the director of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

``Looking back on it now, it is clear that the treatment you and others received was offensive, inappropriate and wrong. Sadly, this was not so clear in the 1940s,″ Haveman wrote in the December letter.

``Thankfully, we have learned from the horrors of the past and no longer continue the painful policies you suffered. ... I congratulate you on rising above the ignorance of that time period.″

Aslin, who lives in Hobbs, Ind., said he harbors no resentment toward the state of Michigan.

``It’s been so long, I don’t really have any ill feelings toward them,″ he said. ``It still bothers me to talk about it now.″

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