Female Prisoners Sterilized Without Consent In California Prisons

July 10, 2013  |  

Source: Shutterstock


During the years of 2006-2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized about 150 women without receiving approval from the state. The sterilization process is also known as tubal ligation; the doctors who performed this procedure were contracted by the CDCR. The doctors were funded through state funds to perform the procedure, with expenses totaling up to $147,460.

The state of California made the practice of forced sterilization on prison inmates (especially those who classify as ‘mentally ill’ and poor) illegal since 1979. Also, it is illegal for prisons to use federal funds to cover the costs of sterilization. Prisons are able to find a loop-hole in this law by allowing doctors to visit inmates. These visitations give doctors the opportunity to seek approval from inmates, even when they are in labor.

A former inmate, Christina Nguyen who worked at Valley State Prison overheard medical staff persuading inmates who had several prison terms to become sterilized: “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” said Nguyen, 28. “Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?”

Inmates told The Sacramento Bee:

Michelle Anderson, who gave birth in December 2006 while at Valley State, said she’d had one prior C-section. Anderson, 44, repeatedly was asked to agree to be sterilized, she said, and was not told what risk factors led to the requests. She refused.

Nikki Montano also had had one C-section before she landed at Valley State in 2008, pregnant and battling drug addiction.

Montano, 42, was serving time after pleading guilty to burglary, forgery and receiving stolen property. The mother of seven children, she said neither Heinrich nor the medical staff told her why she needed a tubal ligation.

“I figured that’s just what happens in prison – that that’s the best kind of doctor you’re going get,” Montano said. “He never told me nothing about nothing.”

Although prison and medical staff members told female inmates the sterilization would benefit them health wise, the underlying tone and purpose of the procedure is being used against women who would be labeled as second-class citizens. According to OB-GYN Dr. James Heinrich:

 “I  provided an important service to poor women who faced health risks in future pregnancies because of past Caesarean sections. 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.”

Sterilization goes beyond medical procedures; it becomes a race and economic issue between the upper/lower class. During the mid-twentieth century, sterilization was tested upon African –American and Latino women. The women who were a part of these tests were not told the precautions of sterilization.  At the time most civil-rights leaders claimed sterilization and even birth control was used to regulate or reduce the number  of  births by women of color.

With all the advancements in family planning and contraception, do you think the medical procedure of sterilization should be obsolete?


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  • Sickntired

    Well doesn’t sound like they are doing this to responsible adults. If you already have multiple children and you are in prison, hhhmmm wonder who’s taking care of the kids. They need to sterilize some of these women and men that have multiple kids and refuse to get a job to take care of them. I’m sorry but if you continue making babies that you can’t and won’t support, someone needs to stop you.

    • Stephanie

      I’m not against eugenics, or preventing so-called undesirables from having children they’ve proven they can’t/won’t care for.

      People who are too irresponsible to stay within the bounds of society should not be allowed to have and raise children. Their children will undoubtedly end up being a burden to society. Unfortunately, lower-class black and brown people are proving themselves to make up a large number of those irresponsible types.

      This type of sterilization should be more widespread – if you go to prison a second time, automatic tubal ligation or vasectomy. No choice. If you’re receiving any sort of welfare/government assistance – you should have to get a yearly BC shot.

      If you can’t afford to care for yourself and your offspring with your own means, you do not have the right to bring more innocent beings into your bad situation.

  • Trisha_B

    I feel like this is legally happening w/ birth control. They are always telling women to get on birth control, but I’ve heard of women who end up sterilized. I dont trust them. That is a way for them to control the population, especially a certain race. A lot of women dont do research on the types of BC, they dont ask questions. They just take them. I remember one of my professors telling me about this school for pregnant girls & young moms actually putting them on BC, I believe it was the depo shot. All the girls were minorities, lower class. All the girls had to end up getting hysterectomies. You think they didnt know it was gonna happen to those girls smh.

  • Courtney Kennedy

    oh please what about women that have delivered multiple children via -cesarean section having a tubal ligation while they’re under anesthesia for their last delivery. women that are in jail have no business having children who if a family member doesn’t take them end up wards of the state. at least now a days a laboring mother isn’t put completely under like they were in the 50’s 60’s that’s why for example after Olivia Dahl was born in NYC none of her younger siblings were 2 were born in Los Angeles and two were born in London because her mother hated the fact she had been put completely out to give birth with no previous medical reason like the baby having been in distress or a benign uterine fibroid was about to rupture

  • Kenedy

    I don’t have a problem with this being done to career criminals…now if they can only do this to men, especially rapists & pedos

  • the guest


  • taz

    I dont see a problem here….The last thing these woman need to be doing is having anymore kids. IJS

  • &what?

    Well, not saying that it is morally correct, but if they weren’t in prison in the first place and were being responsible parents/adults, it wouldn’t have happened to them. Plus, the article says they chose the women that were most likely going to be right back in prison anyway. I think one lady already had 5 kids. No need to keep popping babies out if you are going right back to jail. They need to start sterilizing these repeat male offenders too…

  • clove8canela

    Just another case of modern day eugenics. Weaning out the ‘undesirables’ to improve the human race. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. I would recommend Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid for anyone who is interested in learning more about these types of experiments directed towards blacks in the US since the very early days of slavery. It’s a fascinating book and provides detailed history of blacks being mistreated, deceived & violated by the medical industry, explaining why so many blacks are distrustful of the medical industry today.

  • Life.

    “Don’t believe the hype”. Stick to reality and recognize the fact that the social engineering that has been taking place for years from planned parenthood to mass incarceration to the negative images in the media (especially with regards to black men and women who aren’t even showed together and happy anymore) are all apart of the agenda.

  • Dee

    I just posted this on my page with the same exact example as to what happen to women ( black and Latino) years ago. It seems someone is scared of becoming the new minority ,so they came up with a way to control the number of black and Latino babies born. Thus trying to stay on top. You already know what time it is.