History of Forced Sterilizations in California: No Justice Yet

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Over at governing.com, writer Chris Kardish writes about how different states have approached forced sterilization and compensation for its victims:

image by Fred Dungan, http://www.fdungan.com/prison.htm

Forced sterilization by the government sounds like a ghastly practice that ought to be safely locked away in the distant past. But for some states, it’s an issue that’s very much in the present.

Take California. When the state formally apologized in 2003 for its history of forcing sterilization on prisoners and the mentally ill, most people thought the practice had died out. But this past June, a state auditor’s report found that 39 female inmates had received tubal ligations without lawful consent between 2005 and 2013.

California prison regulations already forbid forced tubal ligations, vasectomies and any other procedure that isn’t medically necessary. * * *

Involuntary sterilization gained traction in the U.S. in the early 1900s, along with the eugenics movement. Eventually 33 states had sterilization laws on the books before a wave of repeals beginning in the 1970s. It’s estimated that California sterilized 20,000 people from 1909 to 1963, accounting for about a third of all procedures performed in the U.S. Another state with one of the nation’s highest sterilization numbers was North Carolina, which in 2013 became the first to provide reparations. The state set aside $10 million for claims from its estimated 1,800 still-living sterilization victims.

Critics are wondering why California can’t do the same. “I think what North Carolina did by stepping up and making dollars available to compensate men and women who were sterilized — that’s a good model,” says Areva Martin, a California civil rights attorney. A 2013 Santa Clara Law Review paper estimated that some 500 people sterilized in California were still alive in 2012.

The full article is here.

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