LOS ANGELES -- California yesterday became the first state in the nation to require either the "chemical" or surgical castration of repeat child molesters.
By a 51-8 vote, the State Assembly passed a bill already approved by the Senate that requires anyone convicted of two sexual assaults on minors to be injected with a drug reducing sexual drive, if they choose not to be surgically castrated at the government's expense.
Gov. Pete Wilson, who backed the measure as a step toward controlling what he called "deviant" behavior, has promised to sign the legislation.
Experts said that the new California law was the most severe measure in the nation aimed at child molesters. Similar legislation is being considered in Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington.
The law requires that anyone -- man or woman -- convicted twice of sexually assaulting a child be injected the week before parole with a drug containing female hormones that reduces sexual drive. Offenders have the option of surgical castration.
A small percentage of repeat child molesters are women.
The drug most commonly employed, Depo-Provera, used as a contraceptive for women, can lower testosterone levels in men as well as sexual desire in females if given in large enough doses.
Opponents of the law expressed doubts about the effectiveness and legality of the measure.
"What we are talking about is forcibly medicating people," said Katherine Sher, legislative advocate for the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. "It goes to some fundamental constitutional rights."
Sher said she expected the law to be challenged as a violation of Eighth Amendment guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment.
Pub Date: 8/31/96