State to Provide Reparations for Forced Sterilizations

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By Al Rice

HUNDREDS OF CALIFORNIANS may soon receive reparations of as much as $25,000 after the state wrongly sterilized them decades ago — some being no older than 13 at the time — because they were determined to be unfit to bear or father children.

California’s practice began in 1909 as part of the eugenics movement and is credited for inspiring Nazi Germany’s forced sterilization program, according to Paul Lombardo of Georgia State University. “The promise of eugenics at the very earliest: ‘We could do away with all the state institutions — prisons, hospitals, asylums, orphanages,’” Lombardo said. “People who were in them just wouldn’t be born after a while if you sterilized all of their parents.”

Until the law was repealed in 1979, over 20,000 California citizens were sterilized. Now the state has reserved approximately $7.5 million in its operating budget for the hundreds that survive.

California prison sterilizations began in 1999 and lasted until 2010, as the state coerced female prisoners into being sterilized by tubal ligation as part of their regular medical care. In fact, a 2013 state audit discovered that 144 women were sterilized without proper counseling, an offer of alternative birth control treatment, or proper consent.

“We must address and face our horrific history,” said Lorena Garcia Zermeño of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. “This isn’t something that just happened in the past.”

In 2014, the state passed a law that bans inmate sterilizations for the purpose of birth control in state prisons and jails, but permits those of medical necessity, such as in the case of ovarian cancer.

Originally Published in the Mule Creek Post.

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