Featured Image: Irwin County Detention Center. Source: Dem Volke Dienen.
We publish the article of Dem Volke Dienen published on their webpage.
A total of 60,000 people were victims of forced sterilizations in the United States between 1907 and 1981, during the period when the procedure was legal, according to bourgeois estimates. Of these, 85 percent are believed to have been women and girls. During its peak, the 1960s and 1970s, masses of black and indigenous women were forcibly rendered infertile by state order.
The eugenics movement in the U.S., with Harry Laughlin at its head, the interventions from the beginning as a “weapon against ‘morally and intellectually inferior’ immigrants.” Yet even today, forced sterilizations remain a partially legal and also used tool in the United States.
In 32 U.S. states, in fact, forced sterilizations may officially be performed on people with disabilities to this day. The majority of other states have no laws that provide a more precise definition on this issue. Only in North Carolina, the state where proportionally the most forced sterilizations were carried out and “social workers decided on their own who went under the knife” and “were guided by racial prejudices and mostly faulty intelligence tests” , and in Alaska, forced sterilizations are completely prohibited today. The legal situation in states where they are allowed is that for people who cannot “give consent,” which is defined as “they understand what sterilization is and can say yes to it” a judge may make the decision.
The legal basis for forced intervention on people with disabilities has also allowed covert forced sterilizations to be performed elsewhere in the U.S., namely in women’s prisons. Between 2006 and 2010, there were estimated to be 150 cases in California; across the country, there were judges pressuring women to undergo infertility procedures as a way to shorten their time in prison.
In 2020, the case of the Irwin County Detention Center, a “reception center” in the state of Georgia, a prison facility for “illegal” migrants from Latin America, became public. At least 43 female detainees testified that they had been given a hystererectomy, a removal of the uterus, against their will. Nurse Dawn Wooten, who had worked there, denounced the crimes against the women in the infirmary. “Everyone who goes to this doctor gets a hysterectomy – pretty much everyone”; in one case, “the left ovary was to be removed because of a cyst; the doctor removed the right. She was upset. She had to go back to have the left one removed and got a total hysterectomy. But she still wanted children […] There were several inmates who told me they had been to the doctor, had hysterectomies, and didn’t know why.” In addition, the forced procedures were officially explained with “language barriers”; according to Wooten, on the other hand, pressure was often put on the women during conversations. Responsible for the sterilizations was the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The incident coincides with the term of office of former President Donald Trump, who had already also voiced plans to separate children from their parents in the case of migrants from Latin America.