California Prisons Are Sterilizing Female Prison Inmates Against Their Will

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Inmate-sterilizations-300x151By April Taylor

The website is reporting that prison doctors in California have sterilized over 150 women.  The reported reasoning behind the sterilizations is that the state did not want to have to make welfare payments to the women for children that they may have had once they were no longer in prison.  The sterilization procedures that occurred between 1997 and 2010 reportedly cost the state a total of $147,460, and Dr. James Heinrech who is an OB-GYN at Valley State Prison for Women in California is quoted as saying that this total is far less than the amount of money it would have taken to pay for welfare for children her referred to as unwanted.  While it is reported that the women were not forced to have the sterilization procedure done, Heinrech is said to have signed off on the procedures as medical emergencies to circumvent the process that is in place to protect the rights of women in the California prison system.

While it would seem that this type of procedure should be illegal, it is actually protected under the law.  The Supreme Court ruled in the 1927 Buck vs. Bell case that women can legally be forcibly sterilized while incarcerated.  Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote the majority opinion on the case and is quoted as stating the following, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.  We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives.  It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence.”

While Holmes may have what some see as a valid point, it does not appear that anyone has considered that providing these women with opportunities to provide financially for themselves and their families in a way that provides genuine economic security would avoid them needing to rely on the state in