We Need to Face America's Dark History of Sterilizing People Behind Bars (my newest on Bitchmedia)

and not just its distant history, but a history from only two years ago:
On Tuesday, April 2nd, California's Sterilization Prohibition bill (SB 1135) goes before the state's Senate Health Committee. The bill limits sterilization surgeries in all California state prisons, county jails, and other detention centers. It bans sterilizations for birth control purposes—surgeries would be restricted to those with life-threatening medical emergencies and for curing physical ailments.

Is such a bill really necessary? In 2014, aren't we a long way from state-sponsored eugenics programs, either in or out of prison? But prisons are often sites where attacks on women's bodies are allowed to continue with little attention or oversight.

As people outside fight for the right to access birth control under the Affordable Care Act, people inside prisons have to fight to keep their ability to have future children. Last summer, the Center for Investigative Reporting released a damning report that revealed how at over 100 people had been given tubal ligations in California women's prisons from 2006 to 2010 without proper state oversight. The majority of those tubal ligations were ordered by one doctor, Dr. James Heinrich, and his staff. Several people had reported that Dr. Heinrich had pressured them into agreeing to tubal ligations, sometimes when they were actively in labor or on the operating table for a C-section...

It's important to note that this issue goes further than one bad doctor. While Heinrich may seem extreme, his views (and actions) reflect the viewpoint that, because they are imprisoned, women are unfit mothers and should lose their right to parent. We've seen the same attitude held about mothers on welfare--that they are, by virtue of needing welfare, unfit mothers and that they should be sterilized. As late as 2008, politicians have suggested offering financial incentives for poor people to get sterilized. It's also important to note that views about unfit parents, reproductive rights, and sterilizations often have a gender bias: people in California's men's prisons were not pressured into sterilization surgeries in recent years.

Read the entire post (complete with some amazing images dug up by my editor) at http://bitchmagazine.org/post/why-does-california-need-a-sterilization-p...