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.”