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The New Eugenics is the Old Eugenics: Female Inmates Illegally Sterilized in California

July 07, 2013 at 10:38 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

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Female inmates sterilized in California prisons without approval:

Crystal Nguyen, a former inmate at Valley State Prison seen with son Neiko Nguyen, said she worked in the prison infirmary. She said she often heard the medical staff ask repeat offenders to agree to be sterilized. "I was like, 'Oh my God, that's not right,' " Nguyen recalls.

Crystal Nguyen, a former inmate at Valley State Prison seen with son Neiko Nguyen, said she worked in the prison infirmary. She said she often heard the medical staff ask repeat offenders to agree to be sterilized. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” Nguyen recalls.

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.

Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future….

The allegations echo those made nearly a half-century ago, when forced sterilizations of prisoners, the mentally ill and the poor were commonplace in California. State lawmakers officially banned such practices in 1979.

Dorothy Roberts: What We Talk About When We Talk About Reproductive Rights

In contemporary America there is a prevalent belief that poor black women shouldn’t have children. And that their having children is the cause of black people’s problems, well, indeed, of America’s problems. I think for a long time the denigration of black women’s reproduction was just ignored by mainstream feminists because they had the image of the white mother in mind. Even though there are restrictions on white mothers, it’s a fundamentally different kind of regulation. And then there are other feminists who are so wedded to abortion rights as the most important issue and to abortion as the be all and end all of reproductive freedom that there s a resistance to seeing coercive birth control policies as also being oppressive. They don’t get that distributing Norplant and Depo-Provera in poor communities and telling women, “This is what you should use,” could be oppressive.

A perfect example is sterilization. In the seventies, a group of feminists opposed waiting periods and rigid informed consent procedures for sterilization. Women of color said, “Let’s put limits on sterilization because doctors are guilty of abuse.” But this just didn’t register with some of the mainstream reproductive rights groups that had been pushing for greater access to sterilization for white, middle-class women. While poor black women were, in some cases, forcibly sterilized, sometimes without their knowledge, let alone consent, white women had a hard time getting sterilized. There were all sorts of formulas to figure out if you should allow a white woman to be sterilized. This exemplifies how diametrically opposed the experience of the struggle for reproductive rights has been for these two groups.

See also: The PIC – Old School/New School 2

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1 comments
Seeta
Seeta moderator

This is truly horrific -- thanks for posting Nancy