Archive for the ‘Sterilization’ Category

Post By Nicole Catá

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has long defined reproductive healthcare, autonomy, and decision-making as human rights.  Nowhere is the need for a human rights framing of reproductive issues more acute than in the case of the California prison system.  Last month, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that, between 2006 and 2010, doctors sterilized nearly 150 female inmates in California prisons without anything remotely resembling informed consent. State documents further divulge that doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation may have completed up to 250 tubal ligations since the 1990s.  Many former inmates are coming forward as having felt ill-informed regarding and coerced into the procedure.  This case reminds us that absolutely everyone, incarcerated or not, deserves dignity in reproductive decisions.



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Hoping to reduce the number of children born to low income mothers, John LaBruzzo, Republican State Representative of Louisiana, is considering legislation that would pay poor women $1,000 if they undergo reproductive sterilization by tying their tubes, known as fallopian tube ligation


LaBruzzo’s reasoning is that he believes low income families contribute to generational welfare— meaning that children born to parents on welfare will most likely end up on welfare as well.  As noted by LaBruzzo, “It’s a horrible problem and we were brainstorming about some of the options.”


Louisiana is a state with over four millions Latinos.  Women make up 51% of the population, and 40% of low income families are headed by women.  Evidently, this bill would end up impacting over two million women in the state, many of whom may not know that tubal ligation is a permanent, usually irreversible procedure.  A vasectomy incentive for poor men is on his agenda as well.


What’s most offensive is that LaBruzzo would like to give tax incentives to college-educated wealthy couples, so that they will have more children.  So it’s not that he wants to control population growth, it’s just that he wants to be selective about who should be reproducing.


Needless to say, this has angered many people and organizations, who compare Labruzzo’s ideas to eugenics, a form of selective breeding.  Julie Mickelberry of Planned Parenthood Louisiana bought up an interesting point, emphasizing that LaBruzzo’s plan would not solve the underlying issue, which is access to health care and better paying jobs.


And she is right.  Instead of paying doctors and hospitals for these surgical procedures, which will most likely cause insurance rates to go up for everyone, LaBruzzo should be focusing on prevention.  As it is, many Latina’s have limited access to health insurance, and a decision made when offered money may not be the same decision a women wants ten years down the line.  Sterilization will not solve other public health issues faced by the Lousiana residents.  What would be more productive would be for LaBruzzo to “brainstorm” on how to provide better jobs opportunities for residents and sexual education programs.


The most upsetting thing about this “brainstorming session” is that it brings back memories from the 1970’s, a time when many Mexican women were forced to have sterilization procedures done.  Many times doctors did not get consent from patients.  To many, this was a form of eugenics— a way to control the population so that only those desired reproduced, which adversely affected women of color.


Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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You might be interested to check out this debate on Feministing–it centered on a response that I wrote to a piece Ann posted about a young woman’s difficulty finding a doctor who would sterilize her.

I responded with the flip-side of the argument, which is the history of coercive sterilization for women of color, low-income and immigrant women. You can see my response here, and also Ann’s updated post in reference to this flip-side as well.

This sterilization issue is something that we cover during our Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy (LOLA) Trainings and its an important highlight on one of the places that the mainstream feminist movement has historically diverged from the issues and needs of women of color, particularly Latina women, who have and continue to be treated very differently when it comes to their fertility.

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