Student Opinion: ‘Forced Hysterectomies’ Allegations Against ICE

(AP Photo/Jeff Amy)

By Michelle Moreno Lira

Various women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Irwin county detention center in Georgia are claiming that they were forced to have hysterectomies by a doctor they nicknamed the ‘Uterus Collector.’

ICE detention centers have been in the spotlight lately due to accusations regarding the manner in which they handled the spread of COVID-19. According to NBC LA, an alarming percentage of detainees tested positive for COVID-19 due to a lack of protection against the virus. 

After going in for simple procedures, several women detainees held at Irwin county detention center detailed their experiences about receiving forced hysterectomies. 

According to the Guardian, one woman named Pauline Binam claimed she was having problems with her period after spending two years in the detention center. She explained that a doctor told her she had a cyst in her ovary and had to undergo surgery for it. 

Binam was only 29 years old at the time when the doctor they call the ‘Uterus Collector’ informed her that her “fallopian tubes had been removed – a procedure she is adamant she did not give consent for.” Binam’s lawyer, Vân Huynh, argues she also developed amenorrhea, causing her menstrual period to stop, along with side effects of mental health issues. 

The reproductive rights of immigrant women are being undervalued and their claims are being mishandled and not taken seriously. Although some people have brought attention to the situation, it’s important to bring awareness towards the history of forced and coerced hysterectomies among women of color. 

Forcing hysterectomies on immigrant women and women of color has been a problem in the U.S. since the 1960s and 1970s. The film, “No Mas Bebes,” is a 2015 documentary that tells the stories of several Mexican immigrant women who were permanently sterilized at the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center.  

In an article by ABC11, reporters interviewed Mileidy Cardentey Fernandez, a woman who underwent surgery for an ovarian cyst. After a month, she was still not sure what procedure was performed on her. The claims reported that the doctor is “a gynecologist linked this week to allegations of unwanted and other procedures done on detained immigrant women that jeopardize their ability to have babies.”

It’s obvious that detention centers across the nation are not taking proper care of immigrants, especially in regard to their health and well-being. So it no longer becomes surprising that allegations against ICE detention centers happen frequently. 

As a nation, we promote freedom but act in stealing the reproductive rights these women all deserve to have. Immigrant women are facing bigger consequences due to communication problems or a lack of education that places them in difficult situations and allows corrupt doctors to take advantage of them. 

There have already been several accusations against ICE when it comes to their living conditions and health precautions. 

Still, President Donald Trump has stayed quiet during these allegations. According to NBC News, political figures, such as Nancy Pelosi, “demanded an investigation,” along with other liberal figures, describing the allegations as “Nazi Germany-type cruelty happening in Trump’s America.”

Since his presidency began, President Trump has called “Mexicans’’ criminals and rapists; it’s upsetting that he has not paid any attention to the allegations at hand and still neglects to move forward in launching an investigation. 

I believe he mishandled the allegations and undermined its importance. Instead, he chose to stay silent, prompting me to believe that he did not value the heartbreaking stories of these women as credible and did not care to establish an investigation at all. Even though the government runs ICE, it seems as if the president has detached himself from detention centers and is only concerned about deporting detainees rather than respecting their human rights.  

It is amazing to see that organizations like the ACLU have demanded an investigation into these claims and have given the situation more attention, unlike our president. I believe that other women’s rights organizations should contribute to bringing awareness. Their reproductive rights are just as valuable as ours, it doesn’t change just because of their citizenship status. 

Dawn Wooten, the whistleblower who also worked as a nurse, wouldn’t be the first person to accuse doctors of sterilizing both men and women of color, who have been forcefully placed in difficult positions. 

The NBC News article continues by accusing “officials at the Irwin County Detention Center of denying detainees [their] essential health care and sending women to a doctor who allegedly performed unnecessary mass hysterectomies.”  

Aside from undergoing surgeries they didn’t consent to, the women were denied appropriate medical attention and weren’t given the full details of the surgeries they received. 

Language barriers, lack of knowledge/education, or lack of healthcare are some factors that have allowed doctors to take advantage of women in these vulnerable positions. There needs to be more health-care workers that translate or explain procedures to women and men before they sign contracts or agree to surgeries they didn’t ask for. 

Reveal reports that in addition to women being coerced into hysterectomies or sterilization, there have also been similar accusations from both genders in California prisons and mental health hospitals. Some women in prison would give birth and during the process, they would perform tubal ligations. 

If you haven’t guessed it already, these procedures are done to control women of color, which is why this country has chosen to stay silent on this topic. The U.S. has a problem with women of color and their families, especially when it comes to their financial needs.

These procedures are done in order to lower the percentage of Hispanic, Black, Latino, etc. children being born into the U.S. Sterilizing these women meant lowering the need for programs centered on helping these families; the government would no longer see them as a financial obstacle and would save millions on social security programs like Medicaid. 

Although the president has remained silent throughout these accusations, according to USA Today, “more than 170 Democratic members of Congress dispatched a letter Tuesday to Homeland Security’s Inspection General, urging the office to open an immediate investigation.”

Immigrants held in detention centers are not receiving the appropriate medical attention they deserve and when they do, it is completely inhumane as their chances of conceiving children are either stolen from them completely or greatly reduced. The article also claims that detainees were punished if they requested medical attention and were only taken to see a doctor if they looked like they were dying.

I believe it’s essential for political figures to demand an investigation against ICE, seeing as the president has chosen to stay quiet. Although these are immigrant detainees, they shouldn’t be denied basic human rights, such as essential health care, and should be entitled to have a trial based on these allegations. 

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