A Black licensed nurse recently made stirring allegations regarding a privately owned immigration detention center in Georgia, where she claimed numerous women have received hysterectomies without proper consent.
Dawn Wooten has come forward as part of a formal complaint that was filed on Monday at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. The report accuses the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, of failing to protect workers and detainees by providing proper sanitation and protective gear in the midst of the coronavirus and under reporting cases, along with the high number of hysterectomies.
A large portion of the 27-page complaint backed by advocacy groups Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and the South Georgia Immigration Support Network, relied on information provided by Wooten.
The accusations relate to the perverse history of medical doctors using the bodies of Black women and women of color as test subjects, especially in the field of gynecology. Unfortunately, general practices discovered through the many experiments used on Black bodies are still used in gynecology today. While the claims still have to be investigated, history shows us that there is validity around why Wooten chose to speak up.
In the report, a detainee claims that five women underwent the procedure between October and December 2019 and were confused and discombobulated due to the lack of Spanish interpreters, The Intercept reports.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ICE documented that 42 detainees contracted the coronavirus at Irwin.
Wooten said she made numerous internal complaints before the accusations were made public and feels she was demoted as a means of retaliation.
“I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor, and they’ve had hysterectomies, and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going,” Wooten stated in the complaint obtained by The Intercept.
“ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results,” ICE statement said in a statement to The Intercept. “That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”
On Tuesday Wooten sat down with Chris Hayes on MSNBC to discuss the alleged adverse conditions and why she decided to come forward.
“I had several detained women on numerous occasions who would come to me and say, ‘Ms. Wooten, I had a hysterectomy, why?’ I had no answers as to why they had those procedures,” she said.
“And one lady walked up to me here this last time around between October of 19 until July the second and said what is he, the uterus collector, does he collect uterus’? And I asked her what does she mean, and she says, ‘Everybody I talked to has had a hysterectomy.’ And you just don’t know what to say. I don’t have an answer for why they would come to me and say, ‘Is he the uterus collector?” Wooten continued.
She went on to say the standard of care was not timely at the facility and that medical forms were often shredded after patients filled them out.
“As a human, you just don’t treat people inhumane,” she said.
In response to the complaint, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for an investigation on Tuesday.
“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint — including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women — are a staggering abuse of human rights,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“This profoundly disturbing situation recalls some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, from the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, to the horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to the forced sterilizations of Black women that Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others underwent and fought,” Pelosi continued.