Sterilization without Consent

Imagine living your whole life wanting children, only to be sterilized by the government without your consent, effectively destroying your ability to have children. This is the case for a large amount of people, mostly minorities. “Used as a means of controlling “undesirable” populations – immigrants, people of color, poor people, unmarried mothers, the disabled, the mentally ill – federally-funded sterilization programs took place in 32 states throughout the 20th century” states Lisa Ko in her article. Although many of us would like to think that the practice of sterilization has ended, it still continues to be a prominent issue in the world. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, many Native American women were forced into sterilization. While getting appendectomies, thousands of women also received tubal ligations without consent. Another notable fact regarding the sterilization of these women was that many of them were even underage. Around 40 women under the age of 21 were given these procedures. In addition, it is estimated that 25-50% of Native American women as a whole, were forced into sterilization.

Not just Native American women were forced into sterilization. Many minorities and people who were not financially stable were also forced into this disturbing practice. In many cases, California was the source of these procedures. Within the years 1909-1979 at least 20,000 people were sterilized without consent. The majority of these procedures targeted those whom were African-Americans and especially Latinos. More recently California targeted a different group of people: criminals. Between the years 2006 and 2010, nearly 150 female inmates were coerced into being sterilized.

Previous to taking this course, I can honestly say that I had no knowledge on this topic. I find it disturbing that a problem so prominent can be looked over so easily. On the other hand, I am not suprised. In many cases, practices like this are covered up or not often talked about because they convey a negative image of our government and medical system. This practice is a prime example of racism in medicine. Despite being human beings, these people were targeted due to their race (or financial situation, etc). Sterilization without consent is still a major problem in society and should be addressed.



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