California Prisons Illegally Sterilized Hundreds of Female Inmates


A report by the Center For Investigative Reporting (CIR) uncovered the shocking details, “Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, The Center for Investigative Reporting has found. At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews. From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners. The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison.”

In the 21st Century, in one of the most liberal states in the country, women were coerced into being sterilized like animals if prison officials thought they were at high risk of returning to prison in the future.

One of the doctors who did the surgeries called them a smart economic decision for the state, and defended the amount he was paid to do them. “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money,” Dr. James Heinrich said, “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”

The problem is that women should not be treated like they are animals. We all think of eugenics as something that was associated with the Nazis, but America also has a dark history of selective sterilization. At one time, 33 states had programs that sterilized 65,000 Americans into the 1980s. Forced or coerced sterilizations aren’t something that just happens in other countries. They are happening in the United States of America.

The defenders of the secret sterilization program that was going on in California describe it as empowering the female inmates. This is the same kind of language that Republicans use to promote legislation that takes away a woman’s right to choose. People have never been empowered by the loss of a choice or a right. It goes against all logic that less self determination makes an individual more free.

In the greatest country in the world, women are/were being sterilized without the required state approval.

And they say that there’s no such thing as a war on women and the poor.

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