The “freedom-loving” U.S. has been practicing the forced sterilization of its least desirable citizens since the early twentieth century.
At least 30 states began officially and formally sanctioning this practice under the “1907 Indiana Eugenics Law.” It is conservatively estimated that over 60,000 American citizens suffered this procedure until it was supposedly abolished little by little, state by state, in the 1970s.
Even now, however, forced sterilization through tubal and bilateral tubal ligation for females and vasectomies for males continues in the U.S. The group of undesirables targeted for these procedures now are prisoners. The largest demographic subset of prisoners is people of color, meaning that two of history’s usual most undesirables remain prime eugenics targets.
The Associated Press reported in 2017 that a White County, Tennessee, judge entered an order to “allow inmates to get out of jail 30 days early if they agreed to free vasectomies or long-acting birth control implants. Dozens of inmates took the deal.” The Tennessee legislature enacted a bill in 2018 to stop the practice.
Documentary film producer Erika Cohn explored forced sterilization for U.S. prisoners in her feature Belly of the Beast, released in June 2020. “It is pretty shocking that modern-day eugenics are still happening,” she told a Fox News reporter. “We calculated that 1,400 sterilization procedures happened between 1997 and 2013, and there is not a lot of information on what was medically necessary.” The film showcases former California prisoner Kelli Dillon, who underwent forced sterilization at the Central California Women’s Facility.
An investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) corroborated Cohn’s findings. The CIR identified 150 California prisoners who involuntarily underwent forced sterilizations from 2004 to 2013. It also was uncovered that “medical staffers at two prisons that housed pregnant women targeted individuals who they deemed likely to return to prison.”
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