The Forced Sterilisation of Women is Not Limited to China: Inside ICE's Detention Centres

September 2020 exposed the forced sterilisation of immigration women in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention centres in the United States. I first wrote about ICE detention centres back in 2018 when investigations by Homeland Security and reports from lawyers uncovered the grim conditions children were being held in.

"Outdoor cramped cages packed full of migrant children, men, women and babies. Concrete floors and aluminium blankets are deemed sufficient sleeping arrangements. Spoiled food. Women drinking out of toilet bowls. Unlivable sanitary conditions. Detained for weeks and months on end. Inadequate Healthcare. Deaths of transgender migrants. Rosary beads taken from migrants. Propaganda imagery spread. Nooses found in cells. Is this the road to making America great again to become one of the gross human rights abusers of modern history?" - excerpt from 2018 piece

Two years later, conditions and treatment of migrants have only just got worse. A few weeks ago, a whistleblower alleged that hysterectomies were being performed on immigrants in a detention centre in Georgia without their full consent. Nurse Dawn Wooten, who worked in the centre filed a complaint, alongside advocacy group Project South, about the number of hysterectomies being performed on the Spanish speaking women being held there. The allegations were made regarding gynaecologist Mehendra Amin, described as the 'uterus collector,' on the forced surgeries.

She details high levels of medical neglect, stating that most women were confused about the procedures that were being conducted on them. The Guardian reports that in her complaint Ms Wooten said: "When I met all these women who had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they're experimenting with our bodies."

Included in the complaint, officials had refused to carry out coronavirus testing on those who had displayed symptoms and/or been exposed to the virus.

Like, in the first instance where the information around the abuse and mistreatment of children in ICE custody, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised her voice again on this issue, stating that the U.S. needs to atone for its human rights violations against migrants.

This practice of forced sterilisation of women, particularly women of colour is nothing new.

Denise Bell, Researched on Refugee and Migrant Rights said to Amnesty International that: "Unfortunately, the United States has a history of forced sterilization, including of Indigenous women, Black women and other women of color, incarcerated women, and intersex people. In addition to a violation of a person’s rights to health and safety & sexual and reproductive rights, forced sterilization can constitute a crime against humanity under international law."

Race science and eugenics had been pioneered by the United States long before Nazi Germany. The origins lie in the 1927 Buck v Bell Supreme Court case which ruled 8:1 that the state of Virginia had the right to sterilise a person considered unfit to procreate. This led to 20-year-old Carrie Buck being sterilised against her will. This led to federally funded eugenics boards being established in 32 states, where tax dollars were spent on sterilising roughly 70,000 people, mostly black women.

And it doesn't stop there, in the 60s and 70s doctors partnered with the Indian Health Service selected which Native American women were allowed to reproduce taking control over Native American women's reproductive rights. A quarter of Native American women were sterilised, and like the women in the ICE centre, were lied to about the nature of the procedure that was going to be performed on them. They only discovered the truth when they woke up and the damage had already been done.

Government are not the only guilty ones, it is the doctors too. Dorothy Roberts in her book Killing the Black Body, details the harrowing case of Dr Clovis Pierce. Pierce was one of the only Medicaid accepting obstetricians in Aiken County, South Carolina. He had allegedly demanded that his pregnant Medicaid patients consent to sterilisation before he agreed to deliver their children. Women were threatened with legal action if they refused, women who were in labour were thrown out of hospitals. Reports found he had sterilised 18 women at Aiken County Hospital in 1972, 16 of these women were Black.

As many as 70,000 Americans were sterilised during this period, with minorities, poor people and 'promiscuous' women being the targets.

As we make noise about the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women in China, we must also raise an equally loud voice for the women who are being forcibly sterilised in the United States. The similarities between the two cases are that both countries hold extreme power and influence over nations that should be challenging them. Both have been going on for years, both have very similar actions being taken out by the state on individuals they deem 'undesirable.' And it's even more important to address the U.S. longstanding history and practice of eugenics, which has influenced other regimes.


2018 piece -

Articles on forced sterilisation -

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