Lawmakers Pledge More Oversight over Illegal Sterilizations

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SACRAMENTO–

A legislative committee says more oversight is needed over illegal sterilization of women prison inmates. Lawmakers, including Senator Joel Anderson of San Diego, says it was a matter of human dignity and civil rights.

A civil rights group called Justice Now says it has documented as many as 50 sterilization since a federal receiver charged with running the prison systems medical program received word that the procedures were taking place.

“We put a stop to it,” Federal Receiver Clark Kelso told the committee.

He said past practices required prison and contract doctors to offer sterilization as part of child-birth counseling.

But critics say inmates are under duress and don’t get counseling. Instead they sign consent papers, sometimes while being wheeled to the operating room or while under anesthesia, according to Justice Now.

Lawmakers are especially sensitive to California’s sordid history of eugenics, the practice of forced sterilization of primarily minority women or women with disabilities.

Lawmakers say a bill requiring more oversight and education for prison officials and doctors about Federal Law is in order. Sterilization of women inmates for the purposes of birth control are prohibited.

Justice Now also wants reparations for the nearly 150 women who have been sterilized since the federal receiver began prison oversight in 2006.

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