New Proposal In Congress Would Remove ‘Mentally Retarded’ From Federal Law
Years after the term “mental retardation” was stripped from many federal statutes, numerous references to “mentally retarded” remain. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to change that.
A bill introduced late last week in the U.S. House of Representatives would replace language that many with disabilities find offensive in more than two-dozen instances in the U.S. Code.
The move comes more than a decade after passage of Rosa’s Law, which removed “mental retardation” from federal health, education and labor policy in favor of “intellectual disability,” but failed to address references to “mentally retarded,” according to lawmakers behind the latest effort.
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The new legislation known as the “Words Matter Act,” or H.R. 8863, would update laws referencing “mentally retarded” as well as some cases where “mental retardation” remains with the terms “intellectual disability” or “intellectual disabilities” instead.
“This bill just makes sense,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, the bill’s lead sponsor. “Federal law should reflect the time in which we live and not include harmful words or slurs. The Words Matter Act will modernize our laws, and remove offensive language from the U.S. Code. … I look forward to this bill’s immediate passage so we can retire this language once and for all.”
In addition to Pocan, the measure is sponsored by Reps. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Thomas Suozzi, D-N.Y. and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
The bill would modify the language used in laws pertaining to a wide range of government programs including mental health courts, intermediate care facilities, school lunch and other areas.
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