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Fran Pavley, California State Senator, Introduces Bill To Strip The Word 'Retarded' From State Laws

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State Senator Fran Pavley, April 25, 2009. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
State Senator Fran Pavley, April 25, 2009. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

A state legislator introduced a bill to remove the word "retarded" from California's law books on Wednesday, calling the word outdated and demeaning.

State Senator Fran Pavley's legislation would replace all references of mental retardation with the more accepted term "intellectual disability."

Many advocacy groups have already condemned the word. The National Down Syndrome Society states: "People with disabilities, like all people, deserve to be treated as valued citizens and not referred to in a hurtful manner for any purpose. Using the 'R word' is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent."

Medical professionals agree.

Doctor Brian Skotko, medical geneticist in the Down Syndrome program at Children's Hospital Boston, hailed Pavley's legislation, and said getting rid of the word gives people with intellectual disabilities the respect that they deserve.

"People with intellectual disabilities have said loud and clear that they find the word offensive and demeaning in the context it's used," he said. "They are asking their fellow Americans to replace a word that once had a sole clinical meaning but now is tainted with lots of pejoratives, with a word that is less offensive."

According to the Columbus Dispatch, at least 44 states have already signed similar legislation.

Most recently, South Carolina and Massachusetts both voted to amend state law language to replace the word.

Federal law has already made the switch. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed Rosa's law, which excised the offending word from all federal health, education and labor laws.

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