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Indybay Feature

Sterilization Should Never Be Forced

by Romelly Rivera
This piece focuses on the importance of reproductive justice while also highlighting the use of forced sterilization to reduce birth rates of minorities.
The United States has a long history of forced sterilization especially targeting women of color. All women regardless of color, legal status, or criminal background should have the right to procreate. The government should not have any power over a woman’s reproductive system therefore should not have the power to legally force a woman to become sterile. Procreation is a fundamental right therefore forced sterilization should be declared unconstitutional.

These dehumanizing forced sterilization practices are legal, and state funded in most cases due to a 1927 Supreme court ruling Buck v Bell which upholds the legality of forcible sterilizations. Since this ruling over 70,000 women have fallen victims of state funded forcible sterilization.

Most women who undergo forced sterilization in our modern society are those detained in immigration detention centers (ICE) or those that are incarcerated in prisons throughout the U.S. According to the ACLU brown and black women are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Black women make up 30% of all incarcerated women in the U.S while only representing 13% of the U.S female population. Hispanic women make up 16% of incarcerated women while only making up 11% of the U.S female population.

Supporters of these unethical and dehumanizing practices claim these practices help prevent undesirable genes, bad parenting, and are simply cost saving measures. In reality, forced sterilization is a form of population control that reduces the birth rates of the “undesirable” minorities. Women who are detained or incarcerated are the perfect targets because they are stripped of their rights and seen as less than the model citizen.

Between 1997 and 2010 over 1,400 women have undergone unwanted sterilization procedures while incarcerated in California prisons. Between 2006 and 2010 over 150 females have undergone forced serialization in California prisons. Most women claim they were either pressured into the procedure or misinformed of the procedure. Currently, many female detainees in immigration detention centers (ICE) claim to have gone through hysterectomies and tubal ligation without proper consent. These forced sterilizations are targeting some of the most vulnerable members of society poor, brown, and black women.

Forced sterilization is not a dark chapter in American history, it is happening now, and it is affecting the most vulnerable female population. In order to achieve reproductive justice and guarantee the reproductive wellbeing of all women we must spread awareness of these inhumane practices for the victims who have been forgotten by society. Advocating for reproductive justice and lobbying for policy change to protect reproductive rights of all women including the most vulnerable of the population is essential to leaving forced sterilization in the dark past.

Romelly Rivera a third-year student at Sonoma State University pursuing a BA in Sociology, has a strong interest in advocating for women’s rights. Can be reached at riverarom [at]
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