California Prisons Allegedly Sterilizing Female Inmates Without Permission

A sobering new exposé from the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that at least two California prisons have been performing tubal litigations — a sterilization procedure — on inmates who give birth in state custody.
By: Sunnivie Brydum
July 09 2013 2:44 PM

A sobering new exposé from the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that at least two California prisons have been performing tubal litigations — a sterilization procedure — on inmates who give birth in state custody. 

But here's the catch — such procedures have been banned since 2006 without explicit, case-by-case approval from a state oversight committee. According to CIR's report, no such authorizations have been issued, but at least 148 women were sterilized between 2006 and 2010.

CIR's comprehensive investigation also revealed that inmates were often coerced into agreeing to the procedure, even when it was not medically necessary. The report also alleges that prison doctors encouraged women who they considered likely to be incarcerated again to get sterilized.

When an inmate advocate informed the practitioners about the nearly two-decade old ban on tubal litigations, it was news to prison health administrators, doctors, and contracting physicians. 

“Everybody was operating on the fact that this was a perfectly reasonable thing to do,” Dr. Ricki Barnett, who oversees medical services and costs for the California Prison Health Care Revievership Office, told CIR.

The report also features comments from several former inmates — some of whom were sterilized without their explicit consent or without being advised of the risks involved in the surgery. 

The report names one OB-GYN who reportedly made a habit of encouraging pregnant inmates to get sterilized after the birth of their latest child. 

“As soon as [Dr. James Heinrich] found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done," Christina Cordero, a former inmate who served two years for auto theft, told CIR. "The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it. He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it… Today, I wish I would have never had it done."

Read CIR's comprehensive and shocking report here

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