Redress for forced sterilizations

Women forced into medical sterilization in California now have resources for possible recourse from these consent violations. Sterilized as a result of state eugenics laws on the books since the early 20th Century, even though rules were changed in 1979, wome…

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Women forced into medical sterilization in California now have resources for possible recourse from these consent violations. Sterilized as a result of state eugenics laws on the books since the early 20th Century, even though rules were changed in 1979, women were still forced to endure the procedure in state prisons and other California correction facilities.

As reported by The Daily Californian, “Between 1909 and 1979, California forcibly sterilized over 20,000 people of color, people with disabilities and imprisoned people. Based on white supremacist eugenics laws and ableist conceptions of who was “unfit to reproduce,” people with disabilities and women of color suffered forced sterilization. While the state’s eugenics laws were officially repealed in 1979, advocates working in California’s women’s prisons in the early 2000s uncovered continued coercive sterilizations occurring inside the prisons which targeted women and transgender and gender-nonconforming people of color.”

According to a press release by California Victims Compensation Board, the entity that administers the program,

“Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, survivors of state-sponsored sterilization can apply for compensation through California’s Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program, which is being administered by the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB). The state is providing $4.5 million to be split evenly among all eligible individuals who apply, in addition to $2 million for administration and outreach for the program and $1 million to establish markers or plaques at designated sites that acknowledge the wrongful sterilization of thousands of vulnerable people. It is estimated that at least 600 survivors of forced sterilization are still alive today and eligible for compensation.”

Applications will be accepted until December 31, 2023, here.

This compensation possibility is the result of efforts by the California Coalition for Women’s Prisoners, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund to advocate for Assembly Bill 1007, which established a funded reparations program, as well as historical markers identify these places of sterilization and legalized violence.

The film, The Belly of the Beast, directed by Erika Cohn, and produced by Angela Tucker, Christen Marquez, and Nicole Docta, tells the story of people sterilized when under the care of the State of California.

“When a courageous young woman and a radical lawyer discover a pattern of illegal sterilizations in California’s women’s prisons, they wage a near-impossible battle against the Department of Corrections. With a growing team of investigators inside prison working with colleagues on the outside, they uncover a series of statewide crimes – from inadequate health care to sexual assault to coercive sterilizations – primarily targeting women of color. This shocking legal drama captured over 7-years features extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, demanding attention to a shameful and ongoing legacy of eugenics and reproductive injustice in the United States.”

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