Sterilization: U.S. controls birth of ‘undesirables’


When you hear something like sterilization, you think of Nazi Germany concentration camps, or the infamous Tuskegee experiments. And you are stunned that it can go on in the U.S., that bastion of forward-thinking, wonderfully humane civilization.

You don’t want to believe it, but, sure enough it is documented that female inmates have been sterilized in California without required legal sanctioning, often by pressuring these women into undergoing the procedure. Despite that California State lawmakers banned such practices in 1979.

The Center for Investigative Reporting, in July, related that ”doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals.” They received, against prison regulations, tubal ligations.

Further, interviews and state records indicate it’s possible this had been going on since the 1990s, happening to some 100 pregnant females. It took place at the California Institution for Women in Corona and at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla. ”Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future.”

Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate, is quoted in the report as saying, ”I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right. Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?’”

Nguyen hit the nail on the head. Medical professionals — whose Hippocratic oath vows they will do no harm — dehumanize these individuals, who’ve been herded into prison like livestock. Dr. James Heinrich, OB-GYN at Valley State, rationalized that he ”provided an important service to poor women who faced health risks in future pregnancies because of past Caesarean sections.”

He went on to say that it was a cost-effective measure ”compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children — as they procreated more.” You’d think he was talking about spaying feral cats to keep a burdensome population manageable.

This is something it’s always been easy to do in a supremacist society. The Nazis didn’t consider Jews to be human beings. Tuskegee doctors viewed their test subjects as exactly that, subjects. The prison population is, of course, largely of color, these women’s humanity nullified by someone as dangerous as the good Dr. Heinrich.

Ultimately, it’s a disgrace. One that gives good reason to wonder how far removed America is from what went on in places like Auschwitz.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.


To see more stories by Dwight Hobbes stories click HERE