Stop Sterilizing Women in California Prisons

Target: Governor of California, Jerry Brown

Goal: Stop forcibly sterilizing women in prisons

The Center for Investigative Reporting recently published a study revealing that at least 148 female prisoners were illegally sterilized by force in California between the years of 2006 and 2010. The center estimates there are at least 100 more cases dating back to the late 1990s. From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform tubal ligations on female prisoners.

According to interviews with former inmates and prisoner advocates, the prison medical staff coerced the women into the procedure, targeting those they deemed likely to return to prison. A former Valley State inmate interviewed in the study said the institution’s OB-GYN Dr. James Heinrich continually pressured her into agreeing to a tubal ligation. Another Valley State inmate said she was pressured into sterilization by a doctor while sedated and strapped to a surgical table for a C-section in 2010.

The practice of coercive sterilizations is unethical and illegal. Strict laws mandate when doctors can sterilize patients. Force and coercion are illegal, and consent cannot be obtained while the patient is in labor. Federal and state laws explicitly ban inmate sterilizations if federal funds are used, but California has skirted by this requirement by using state funds.

The state of California must stop funding these procedures and must implement a more transparent system that will ensure these illegal and unethical practices stop immediately. Any state prison officials who violate women’s rights by coercing them into sterilization should be punished. Sign the petition below to tell the state of California to put an end to these practices.


Dear Governor Jerry Brown,

Reports from the Center for Investigative Reporting indicate that at least 148 women have been coerced into sterilization in California prisons from 2006 to 2010. From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform tubal ligations on female prisoners. These practices are illegal and unethical.

Women in prison deserve to be protected, and coercive sterilization is nothing short of abuse. Laws mandate that consent for sterilization cannot be received while a woman is in labor, but the study reveals California state prison healthcare providers have violated this.

Daun Martin, a licensed psychologist who works in the Valley State prison system, claims he never approved of tubal ligations, but the surgery was performed at least 60 times at Valley State when Martin was in charge. There needs to be more oversight over state prison staffs to make sure these prisoners are not sterilized under illegal circumstances. I urge you to stop providing state funds to prisons where these practices occur.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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