Wednesday, May 13, 2015

California sterilizing poor women to cut welfare costs.

Introduction from Cynthia Chandler. co-founder of Justice Now.

Eugenics is about more than racism. It's about trying to use predictive tools (like if someone is in prison) to isolate and promote the perfect set of people, be that around race, class, intelligence, ability, health, etc. An early civil rights and women's rights victory in the US created federal laws that ban the sterilization of people for the purpose of birth control in total institutions, such as prisons, because it is considered too coercive an environment in which to even attempt to procure consent to a permanent procedure that will permanently take away a person's fundamental human right to have a family. That law was created in part because people of color and poor people of all races are disproportionately imprisoned, not because they are disproportionately drug users, but because they are disproportionately surveilled, arrested, charged, prosecuted and imprisoned. And once imprisoned, they were assumed to be part of a criminal class that is assumed to predict the poor performance of their children.

I was one of the people that worked to expose the abuses this article highlights. If it weren't for my work and that of Justice Now, the State of California would be continuing to illegally sterilize women without their knowledge. The State was illegally, criminally, assaulting women and authorizing doctors to perform illegal surgeries. And it is not clear if any of the women even know, to this day, that they were sterilized. The consent forms were missing, doctored, or absent; many women sterilized were monolingual Spanish speakers with minimal education. Most were women of color.

The women sterilized were particularly vulnerable victims of crimes made by powerful people who to this day have impunity. And this atrocity continues to be justified by claims that these women were ill fit to be mothers with no examination of who they are or who we all are who think we are good parents in the free world. In contrast, as a white, middle class woman, no one drug tested me when I had kids. No one ever even asked me if I drink or use drugs, because I had private insurance and am not dependent on a public hospital. And I had never held a baby for more than 10 minutes before I had my first child, let alone had any parenting education.

No one ever asked me to prove I would be a good mother, or even questioned my mothering skill or how well my kids would fare. My whiteness, education, and money served as a litmus test of being worthy to parent and my children's deserved-ness to live. That's not ok for me. The power of the powerful to decide what class has the right or ability to have a future generation, or ties to ones kin past present and future, is the most fundamental root of slavery. I am not interested in a slave state. I don't want to live in a world where we decide who can live and die in the most cost effective, expedient manner. In such a world one could expect quick execution of anyone with a disability or challenge that makes them "different." Anyone who is injured might as well be eliminated. Police could be celebrated as exterminators, with even more powers to eradicate "undesireables" than they have now.

And let's be clear that people of color and poor people would be eliminated in droves. And it would all be justified as beneficial to social integrity. It is no surprise that CA doctors trained NAZI's doctors in the practice of eugenics before WWII. This legacy of eugenics and slavery continues in CA and is part of a rising system of neo-fascism. I pray for all of us and our children that this trend is put down.

Women Prisoners Sterilized To Cut Welfare Costs In California

Reprinted from

In California of all places, prison doctors have sterilized over 150 women. Why? They don’t want to have to provide welfare funding for any children they may have in the future. The sterilization procedures cost California taxpayers $147,460 between 1997 and 2010. The doctors at the prison argue it is money well-spent.

Dr. James Heinrich, an OB-GYN at Valley State Prison for Women, said, “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”
 Although such procedures may seem harsh, they are not illegal. The Supreme Court ruled in 1927 that women can be forcibly sterilized in jail in Buck vs Bell. Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”


Holmes wrote, “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. 

In the California prisons, the jailed women are not being forced to be sterilized. But the women say they get pressured by the doctors to make the decision. One inmate said, “I figured that’s just what happens in prison – that that’s the best kind of doctor you’re going get.”

There is a regulation in California that requires state approval for each sterilization procedure. Doctors at the prison were able to get around that, however. The prison medical manager said she signed off on the sterilizations since Heinrich listed them as a “medical emergency.”

Do you think these sterilizations are wrong? On one hand, the very idea is somewhat disturbing. On the other hand, however, it likely does prevent more generations of (expensive) children exposed to drug and crime filled lives.

Give us your two cents below.

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