Without required state approvals, close to 150 female inmates were sterilized between 2006 and 2010 by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).
In clear violation of prison rules, during that five-year period, about 148 women received tubal ligations. About 100 more possibly date back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews by the CIR. From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners.
The women were enlisted for the surgery while pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla (the latter is now a men’s prison).
Did Prison Medical Staff Force Sterilization on California
Prison medical staff coerced the women, in the words of former inmates and prisoner advocates. They said the staff had targeted “those deemed likely to return to prison in the future,” CIR noted.
The institution’s Ob-Gyn, Dr. James Heinrich, repeatedly pressured one former Valley State inmate who gave birth to a son in October 2006 to agree to a tubal ligation.
That and other allegations echo those made nearly a half-century ago, when forced sterilization of prisoners, the mentally ill and the poor were routine in California. State lawmakers officially banned such practices in 1979.
Daun Martin, a licensed psychologist and the top medical manager at Valley State Prison from 2005 to 2008, denied approving the surgeries, but at least 60 tubal ligations were done at Valley State while Martin was in charge, according to the state contracts database.
Federal and state laws ban inmate sterilizations if federal funds are used, reflecting concerns that prisoners might feel pressured to comply. California used state funds instead, but since 1994 the procedure has required approval from top medical officials in Sacramento on a case-by-case basis.
Yet no tubal ligation requests have come before the health care committee responsible for approving such restricted surgeries, said Dr. Ricki Barnett, who tracks medical services and costs for the California
Prison Health Care Receivership Corp.
Lawsuits, the U.S. Supreme Court Banned Forced Sterilizations
of Prisoners in 1979
Lawsuits, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and public outrage over eugenics and similar sterilization abuses in other states led to the creation of new requirements in the 1970s, under which doctors must fully inform patients.
Since then, it’s been illegal to pressure anyone to be sterilized or ask for consent during labor or childbirth.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of pressured sterilization while an inmate in California at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, between the years of 1997 to 2010, valuable legal rights may come into play. Please complete our online form or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) today.