Condemn California Prison for Pressuring Women into Sterilization

Target: California Institute for Women in Corona

Goal: Condemn California prison for pressuring pregnant women into a sterilization procedure

California banned targeted sterilization in 1979 but that didn’t stop prison doctors from pressuring nearly 150 women into sterilization from 1997 to 2010. Instead of targeting the poor and mentally ill as they had prior to the ban, they targeted pregnant women. Some of these women were pregnant with their first child, others with their third or more. Prison doctors decided on women who they thought were likely to be incarcerated again or did not deserve to have more children and began pressuring them to accept a sterilization procedure after the birth of their child.

Even more upsetting is that not one of these procedures went through the proper approval procedure. According to prison rules, each procedure should have been approved by the health care committee at the prison. None of them were.

Of course, prison doctors are saying that they were unaware of these rules and that the women were not pressured. They are claiming that it was a “medical problem” and, as delivery doctors, it was up to them to inform women of their options. However, there is a very big difference between informing someone of their options and pressuring them to the point they feel as if they have no choice, which is what these women are claiming.

The California Institute for Women, where the majority of these sterilizations happened, should be ashamed of the actions of its doctors. In prison or not, these women still deserve to have complete control over their bodies and should never be coerced one way or another. It’s time for the prison system to hold those initiating the sterilizations responsible and begin going through the proper approval procedure.


Dear California Institute for Women,

Many unauthorized sterilizations took place in your prison from 1997 to 2010. These women were pressured and coerced by doctors in your facility who believe they are above both the law and prison rules, which clearly state that all sterilizations must have approval by the prison health care committee. Not a single sterilization which took place during these years was approved.

No woman should be pressured into a procedure she is unsure about and many of these women now regret their decision. It is not up to your doctors to decide who should or should not have any more children.

Please hold these doctors accountable for their actions and begin better enforcing sterilization approval procedures.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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