Reproductive Rights and the US’ History of Forced Sterilisation

CN: This post contains reference to forced sterilisation, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, classism and ableism


Background


Many harrowing allegations of forced hysterectomies and other unnecessary gynaecological procedures at an ICE detention centre in Georgia have been alleged by a whistleblower this month. The whistleblower alleges that many of these surgeries were performed on Spanish-speaking female immigrants, who could not give consent to the procedures, by an off-site doctor dubbed “the uterus collector”.


The US government has always used forced sterilisation as a violent tool of systemic patriarchal, racist, ableist and classist abuse. Around 70,000 Americans were victimised under a 1927 Supreme Court ruling which upheld a state’s right to forcibly sterilise ethnic minorities, people with mental and physical health issues, people from low income communities and sex workers. In the 1960s and 70s, women of colour, particularly Native Americans, were targeted by “population control” measures by the US government. Between 1997 and 2010, forced sterilisations were performed on around 1,400 women in California prisons.


Prompts


  • What is the history of forced sterilisations in the UK? Who has historically been deemed worthy of reproductive rights, and who has not?

  • How have racism, ableism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and classism influenced government involvement in forced sterilisation?

  • Since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, possible policy drawbacks of reproductive rights for all women have risen to the forefront of political discourse. Many people, especially from minority groups, were never granted full reproductive rights in the US. Who do we prioritise in feminist discourse about these topics? Who do we neglect?

References


https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/07/469478098/the-supreme-court-ruling-that-led-to-70-000-forced-sterilizations?t=1601490164800

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/21/unwanted-hysterectomy-allegations-ice-georgia-immigration

https://www.mic.com/p/a-brief-racist-history-of-forced-sterilization-in-the-us-32348143


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