California Moves To Ban Inmate Sterilization After Dozens Of Women Are Illegally Sterilized

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An eight-year audit of sterilization of women incarcerated in California uncovered 39 cases where the woman did not give proper consent to the procedure. Doctors performed a bilateral tubal ligation — or tube-tying surgery — on 27 women without first signing a form indicating that the “inmate appeared mentally competent and understood the lasting effects of the procedure.” In 18 cases, prison doctors did not honor the proper waiting period between consent and the actual surgery.

Additionally, problems arose in each of the 144 sterilization procedures performed on incarcerated California women between fiscal year 2005-06 and fiscal year 2012-13. As Carimah Townes reported for ThinkProgress on Saturday, “[i]nmates who did give consent did not have a witness of choice, as required by prison medical regulations. Physicians did not document their conversations with inmates about the sterilization process with any of the 144 inmates. And none of the procedures were authorized by an oversight committee of state medical professionals.”

In response to this audit, the health committee of the state assembly voted unanimously on Tuesday for legislation that would ban procedures sterilizing any inmate, male or female, unless the procedure is required due to a medical emergency. According to state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-CA), who commissioned the audit that uncovered the illegal sterilizations, “[t]his bill is absolutely essential to make sure that women are not coerced into procedures they don’t want and truly informed about risks and side effects should they be deemed necessary.”