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California Lawmakers Block Prison Sterilization Epidemic

California legislators passed a bill in August of 2014 that should put an end to a clear abuse of power by the state's jailers. Female state prisoners in California have been the victim of scores of forced sterilizations by prison medical officials in the past decade. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), over 150 women were illegally sterilized between 2006 and 2010.

Prison Legal News has previously covered the now discontinued practice of doctors under contract to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation giving tubal ligations to pregnant prisoners without proper state approvals. The State of California has allegedly performed tens of thousands of these sterilizations in the past century, generally targeting women deemed "unfit" to be mothers by prison officials.

As a result of the new legislation, prison officials and medical professionals under their direction will be required to make the practice more transparent, mandating that data be published online and categorizing individuals receiving the procedure by race, age, and medical justification.  The new legislation would prohibit the practice, "except when required for the immediate preservation of life in an emergency medical situation, or when medically necessary, as determined by contemporary standards of evidence-based medicine."   Also required would be psychological counseling for those found to require such a procedure for medical reasons and medical follow-up, including hormone therapy if necessary.

A second medical opinion by a physicians not employed by correctional officials will also be required in future procedures, and female prisoners refusing the procedure will not be denied other medical treatment as a result.

According to California state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, "It's clear that we need to do more to make sure that forced or coerced sterilizations never again occur in our jails and prisons.  Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic rights."

The legislation was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 25, 2014.


Sources: State of California Senate Bill (SB-1135),

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