The United States government forcibly sterilized thousands of Native American women without their consent or, in some cases, knowledge. An independent study found that one in four Native women were sterilized without having consented, and according to another source, 25 to 50 “percent of Native American women were sterilized between 1970 and 1976” (PBS). Coerced sterilization was “used as a means of controlling “undesirable” populations” and thus was not a practice performed solely on Indigenous peoples (PBS). Other groups that were targeted were poor people, unmarried mothers, people of color, the mentally ill, immigrants, and the disabled. Similarly, women were not the only ones who were forcibly sterilized, men and in some cases children, were subjected to this cruelty as well. Throughout the 20th century, federally-funded sterilization programs were in place in 32 states. California led with the most forced sterilizations, a third of the total number, inspiring the Nazis with their eugenics program.
What is surprising is that, in this case, the government eventually did admit to their wrongdoing, and according to a government website, 3,406 Native American Women were sterilized without their permission between 1973 and 1976 alone. However, keeping the source in mind, I would tend to think that this number is a conservative one, especially considering the country’s history of not recognizing the atrocities that it commits.
Between 1997 and 2010, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, about 250 female inmates were sterilized in California prisons without state approval. A doctor who performed these procedures claimed that the cost of the procedures was minimal “compared to what” would be spent on “welfare paying for these unwanted children” (Indian Country). The $147,460 that were spent on these tubal ligations came from the state. I believe that if Californians knew that their states resources were going to this cause, they might not be supportive of it.
Some of these programs occurred extremely recently and/or were very widespread. There is an extremely troubling history in the United States when it comes to this topic, that very few people know about. Disturbingly, these programs were sanctioned by the government and were made into law. The really disturbing part, however, is that many of these decisions have not been overturned. In some cases, the implications of this fact could be shocking and detrimental to the health of many.
Strapped Down & Sedated: Female Inmates Illegally Sterilized in CA