A courageous whistleblower has reported that immigrant and migrant women at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia have been sterilized without their knowledge or consent. The whistleblower’s allegations assert that this facility, a private prison contracted with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), engaged a medical provider to perform unnecessary hysterectomies on women without their consent.
This horrific violation of human rights is part of a long and ugly history of forced sterilization and eugenics in the United States. It is rooted in racist opinions about which people are worthy of having and caring for families. State-directed sterilizations have impacted Black, Indigenous, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Japanese women. Incarcerated women and people with disabilities are especially vulnerable.
California is not immune. Between 1909 and 1979, twenty thousand people were sterilized under California’s Eugenics law, which targeted people in mental hospitals and prisons. More recently, media reports exposed the experiences of nearly 150 women who were coercively sterilized in California’s prisons for women. It was not until 2014 that Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill banning the sterilization of California inmates without their consent.
The disregard for the health and reproductive autonomy of women—and particularly, women of color– must stop. For decades, organizations like Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and others have been voicing concerns over the mistreatment of women and girls of color in our country, and this latest news further underscores their message.
CWLC provides legal assistance to advocates fighting for reproductive justice, and we are seeking ways to support efforts to protect women in ICE facilities and seek justice for those whose rights have been violated. We are grateful to the brave whistleblower who brought these injustices to light and we are committed to working with our allies to end reproductive violence.
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