Damage Done: Prisons Sterilized Female Inmates Without Their Consent


Fri, 20 Jun 2014 15:20:24 PDT

We typically think of reproductive rights as a means to prevent unwanted pregnancy through access to birth control and safe, legal abortion. But what if the state violates a woman’s reproductive rights by pressuring or coercing her to agree to procedures such as sterilization or tubal ligation?

Between 2005 and 2013 some sterilizations in California prisons were performed without proper consent, according to a state audit released Thursday. The finding comes a year after a 2013 report by the Center for Investigative Reporting alleging that staff in California state prisons pressured women to have tubal ligations.  

According to state regulations, before an inmate can be sterilized or receive a tubal ligation the inmate’s physician must sign a consent form. The state also mandates a 30-day waiting period between the time an inmate gives consent and when the procedure is performed. The audit found that between 2005 and 2013, thirty-nine of the 144 tubal ligations performed by California Department of Corrections doctors were done “without lawful consent.”

The audit also found that most of the women sterilized read at below a high-school level and that of those who received the procedure, 50 were white, 53 were Latino, 35 were black, and six were classified as “other.”

“We now have clear proof that the prison environment is an environment where consent simply cannot be obtained in a responsible, reliable manner for these procedures,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat from Santa Barbara, Calif., and a member of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

CIR's 2013 report inspired Jackson to introduce a bill that would restrict sterilization surgeries and prevent abuse. 

Several women told CIR they felt pressured to agree to the procedures. Christina Cordero, who was in prison for two years for auto theft, said that while she was pregnant and incarcerated her doctor pressured her to have a tubal ligation and “made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.”

Related stories on TakePart:

California Prisons Play Fast and Loose With Sterilizing Women Inmates

The Real-Life Stories Behind ‘Orange Is the New Black’

Male Birth Control Pill: Science Takes Major Step, But Will Men Actually Take It?

What Happens to Babies Born in Jail?

Original article from TakePart