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Report - Female prisoners at California state prisons illegally sterilized

Thursday, July 11, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: California, prisons, forced sterilizations

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(NaturalNews) A new report issued by The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), a non-profit journalism group fighting injustice around the world, has uncovered some dark secrets lurking in the California prison system. According to information gathered from both state documents and personal interviews, CIR found that at least 148 female prisoners were illegally sterilized by contracted medical personnel at California prisons between 2006 and 2010, and perhaps hundreds more were unlawfully sterilized in years prior.

Between 1997 and 2010, state funds were distributed to the tune of nearly $150,000 to perform a procedure known as tubal ligation on hundreds of female inmates, some of whom were aggressively coerced into agreeing to the procedure. And two prisons in particular, the California Institution for Women in Corona and the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, appear to have openly condoned the practice, which was targeted towards inmates who had served multiple prison terms.

Former Valley State Prison for Women OB-GYN Dr. James Heinrich was one the primary instigators, having actively pressured inmates to agree to the procedure. Multiple women who had once served terms at the facility claim Dr. Heinrich targeted them for the irreversible procedure, some while they were lying on hospital beds about to give birth to their children. Federal law prohibits pressing a woman to consent to such a medical procedure during labor or childbirth.

"As soon as he found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done," said Christina Cordero, a 34-year-old mother who served two years at Valley State for auto theft, to CIR. "He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn't do it."

Others have expressed similar sentiments, suggesting that Dr. Heinrich had a bizarre penchant for sterilizing inmates. According to the CIR report, Dr. Heinrich and others not only pressured women into getting tubal ligations, but they did so without proper approval from top medical officials in Sacramento. As it turns out, sterilization procedures cannot simply be administered to female prisoners in the willy-nilly way that Dr. Heinrich and others appear to have given them.

In his defense, Dr. Heinrich says he only offered the procedure to women with a history of at least three C-sections. But multiple women who say they were pressured into getting it did not meet this criteria. Nikki Montano, a 42-year-old woman who pleaded guilty to burglary, forgery and receiving stolen property had only had one previous C-section. She agreed, however, to have the procedure done anyway.

California's history of eugenics predates Nazi Germany

Though none of the alleged sterilizations were forced, many of them still appear to have been done illegally, which is the primary issue at hand. Some have suggested that this is at least partly due to the fact that, prior to 1979, California had a policy of compulsory sterilization that applied to all criminals. And after this policy was abolished, prison facilities still had the option to suggest sterilization to inmates and freely administer it with proper consent.

The law was eventually changed to require that prison facilities first receive approval from higher-ups at the state level before sterilizing inmates, but this change apparently flew under the radar of many veteran prison personnel that continued to administer the procedure at will. Even so, sterilization of inmates at California state prisons first originated as a type of eugenics to weed out undesirables in society, and that legacy appears to still be alive today.

"Under compulsory sterilization laws [in California] and in 31 other states, minority groups, the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill and criminals were singled out as inferior and sterilized to prevent them from spreading their genes," explains the CIR report. "Historians say Nazi Germany sought the advice of the state's eugenics leaders in the 1930s."

Be sure to read the full CIR report here:

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