Stop Sterilizing Poor and Mentally Ill Women

Protest Against Sterilization

Target: U.S. President Barack Obama

Goal: End the practice of sterilizing poor, mentally ill women as part of plea deals in child neglect cases.

Prosecutors attempted to force a poor, mentally ill woman to accept sterilization as part of her plea deal to avoid 15 years in prison after her newborn baby suddenly died. This is just one case in a long history of prosecutors and judges in the U.S. trying to coerce women in similar situations into allowing themselves to be sterilized because they’re considered unfit to have children.

Forced sterilization is a massive abuse of human rights that has long been used on populations considered “undesirable” or somehow dangerous. This includes people of color, the poor, and especially those who suffer from mental illnesses. It’s often used as an attempt to lower the populations of these “undesirables” and is a horrific form of eugenics that completely violates a person’s bodily autonomy. Coercion through threat of imprisonment is no better.

Due to this case, prosecutors in that particular district are no longer allowed to include sterilization in plea deals. However, this is still a practice that’s allowed throughout much of the country. By signing this petition, you’ll urge President Obama to speak out against this attack on bodily autonomy that’s motivated by racism, classism, and hatred of those with mental illnesses and work to make the inclusion of sterilization as part of plea deals in any case illegal throughout the nation.


Dear President Obama,

Recently, a mentally ill woman was forced to choose between her freedom and her ability to have children. Tennessee prosecutors insisted that sterilization be a part of the plea deal in the case of Jasmine Randers, whose baby died for unknown reasons. Randers suffered from depression and schizoaffective disorder and was travelling with her baby without much money.

Whether Randers is guilty of neglect or whether the child died for some other reason is inconsequential–she should never have been made to face the possibility of sterilization as part of her plea deal to avoid 15 years in prison. Forced or coerced sterilization has been used for centuries to oppress those who are already downtrodden, and that has always included the poor and mentally ill. Such a thing has no place in a modern, civilized society.

I implore you to intervene on behalf of those who can’t protect themselves. Please work to make the practice of using sterilization in plea deals illegal throughout the country.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Southern Studies Institute via Wikimedia Commons

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