black women

Report finds women were illegally sterlized in California Prisons

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April V. Taylor

The Atlanta BlackStar is reporting on a California State Auditors report which found that California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation performed illegal sterilizations on women being held in their facilities.  The audit had been requested by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus in response to information uncovered by the Center for Investigative Reporting(CIR).

The audit specifically found that of 144 women who had a tubal ligation procedure performed between fiscal years 2006-07 and 2012-13, 39 did not give full consent.  Of those 39 women who did not give full consent, 27 did not have a physician sign a consent form that guaranteed that they were “mentally competent and understood the lasting effects of the procedure.

The audit also found that 18 of the 39 women had a physician who violated the required 30 day waiting period that is granted, “to provide the patient with enough time to reflect on her choice and to make sure she desires sterilization.”  For 12 of these women, medical staff allowed less than a week to lapse between the date the procedure was requested and the actual date of surgery.  In addition, none of the 144 women had physicians document their conversations and none of the procedures were authorized by an oversight committee of state medical professionals.  Officials believe that the actual number of illegal procedures could be higher than what was uncovered by the audit due to the destruction of relevant medical records.

Dr. James Heinrich was found to have performed the majority of the procedures on women who were incarcerated at Folsom Women’s Facility, Central California Women’s Facility, Valley State Prison for Women, and the California Institution for Women.  Many of the women feel that inmates who had been in prison at least once before were targeted for the procedure by prison officials.  The audit report made multiple recommendations about how to prevent future illegal sterilizations.  This includes providing in-depth training on consent rule compliance and appointing a consistent witness of choice to oversee the consent process.

In response to the audit, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson stated that,“This audit demonstrates there is a systemic problem, and implicates the entire culture. The right to have a family is a fundamental right that each of us has. Many of these women are first-time offenders and already have families.” 

12 Comments

  1. karen baylis

    June 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    This article lacks critical information. How were the women approached regarding this subject? Did they initiate the conversation, or did the physician broach the subject? It seems highly doubtful that the women were tossed on a gurney, wheeled off to the operating theatre, and sterilized without knowledge of what was occurring. Most women understand the nature of this procedure, and the consequences that ensue. While I in no way make light of this situation, the title of the article makes it sound as though the surgery was performed without their permission at all…the body of the article says something quite different. The penal system is well known for overstepping the boundaries of their authority. I will be following this story with great interest until its conclusion. I hope that an in-depth investigation is launched, and if any improprieties are found, whoever is responsible will be held accountable.

    • moz

      June 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      you’d be surprissed by what goes on and happens in the penal system, especially when it comes to the medical situation.If you can, get a hold of a copy of subcribe to the Prison Legal News and or go to prisonlegalnews.org

      they have alot of information on there that they don’t want the genearal public to know about. Its so deep, the Department of Corruption(corrections) in New York State has made it illegal to have on possession. They say it cause propaganda and can incite a riot, but it give legal knowledge which they don’t want prisoners to have.
      that’s also like knowing about “Sovereignty”, what the government don’t want the public to know about. anyone who does this, will have to be on their game and make sure they dot all of their “i’s” and cross all of their “T’s” , that’s how they caught Wesley Snipes. They will label u with a ” Terroist association” label, if you won’t do it their way. we are so much in the “matrix” that ppl don’t understand or don’t mind being sheep and cattle led to slaughter.
      but back to the prison medical. I knew one guy, who was HIV+ (whatever medical conditions a person has when they come into the county jail and prison, its the state and county job to continue that treatment until the person is released). well the jail ended up saying that they couldn’t keep up with the person’s treatment because their contract was ending with the medical company they was dealing with. it all turned out to be a lie, they just didn’t want to pay the medical anymore(cost) so now he had a big lawsuit against the county, workers and state. which ends up costing more….
      listen, no one is saying these people don’t deserve being in prison and the conditions are less than human, but you do have those who end up being in prison that are truly innocent and most of the time, those are the ones that end up dying while in prison because failure of the system to begin with. all of this that’s going on in the prison is a futre look of the government on how the general population will be treated. trust me… just wait and see, for those who are lucky or unlucky to see….

    • MzDiva

      June 24, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Valid point. In Prison though, they don’t have to give you an explanation and who knows how they were targeted. But this does not only happen in prisons. Look at states like North Carolina, where poor women and women of color were targeted by their own government and involuntarily sterilzed (they called it Eugenics)& the state had to recently pay out a huge settlement to women who were victimized like this.

  2. Terrance

    June 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    While I’ll definitely concede the story was sparse on the particular. I will also point out the Tuskegee Experiments, it is not unheard of with people in these situations to be exploited and used for experimentation. These are the Abu Dhabi scenarios to your oh so quick to turn a blind eye

  3. j lewis

    June 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    This was a common practice INI believe 21 states until 1974 when NC was the last state too have the practice.

    Today the consequence of going to prison may not be as dramatic but are equally detrimental to your life after you get out!

    You’ll be sorry if you ever have to go to prison!

  4. Andrea

    June 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    We tend to forget about the females who are incarcerated and what they go thru is different then the men. So this is just the tip of the iceburg of what may be happening

  5. Yocheved

    June 24, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I’m curious about the criminal and medical histories of these women. Are they repeat offenders? Giving birth to drug and alcohol affected children? Have they had their previous children taken away from them on abuse charges? If so, then I’m not really having a problem with this.

    I’m also curious if having a vasectomy is an option for male inmates. It would go a long way to help prevent the epidemic of unwanted, unloved, and unparented children being born into this world – who will grow up to be the next generation of inmates.

  6. F Walker

    June 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    This doesn’t suprise me at all. I heard about this situation a few months ago on NPR one afternoon. Sad to say, but prison inmates are the “throw away” people of society and the criminal justice system has their way with them.

  7. Eddie Donahoo

    June 25, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I’m gladthat political channels now have the opportunity to attempt reconciliation heads up for.a similar next time stopping this before it begins

  8. Bluebeard

    June 26, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I would not b surprised if when an inmate male or female dies and have no immediate family to claim or repreesent them the prison sells the body organs and continue to profit!!!
    ALL CLOSED EYES NOT SLEEP!!

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