SACRAMENTO, CA –Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement on the recent whistleblower complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General alleging medical neglect amid COVID-19 and mass hysterectomies performed on immigrant women in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility. Assembly Bill (AB) 3052, which was held in committee again this year, would have created a compensation fund for women who have been victims of the state's eugenics laws dating back to the late 1960's.
"I am beyond horrified and angry over the treatment of immigrant women and the latest news of forced hysterectomies at an ICE detention facility," said Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo. "This is not the first time the United States has been a willing participant in this type of horrid assault to women's bodies. The right to choose includes the right to have children; the right to be a mother. That decision is personal and should not be taken away based on past eugenics practices, which California formerly subscribed to, including most recently in 2010 shrouded under the guise detention center facilities of women being "unfit." In California, we will continue to fight for justice and fight to right the wrongs that have been done to women in hospitals, prisons, and now detention centers in the United States."
On Monday, Project South, the Georgia Detention Watch, and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights filed a complaint on behalf of Dawn Wooten, a nurse who previously worked at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. The complaint describes concerns about the high number of hysterectomies performed on Spanish-speaking women at the center. Many of the detained women shared with Wooten they did not fully understand why they had to get a hysterectomy. The complaint also notes "jarring medical neglect" during the coronavirus pandemic, including a refusal to test detainees with symptoms.
In California, Assemblywoman Carrillo has authored legislation the last two years to rightfully compensate victims of California's previous eugenics laws. Most recently, AB 3052 would have established the Forced Sterilization Compensation Program to provide monetary compensation to those who were forcibly sterilized, as well as those sterilized without medical necessity or demonstrated informed consent while incarcerated. Regretfully, despite bipartisan support, both the bill and the accompanying budget request were held in their respective committees and did not move forward.
Unfortunately, the allegations Ms. Dawn Wooten has shared with us all is not the first. In 1909, California authorized medical superintendents of state homes and hospitals to sterilize patients deemed "unfit for reproduction." California went on to sterilize more than 20,000 people, becoming the most aggressive sterilization program in the United States. Research indicates that the majority of sterilizations affected women, girls, and specifically, Latinas.
Though the state's eugenic law was repealed in 1979, a later state audit revealed 144 women were sterilized during labor and delivery without proper consent while incarcerated in California women's prisons from 2006 to 2010. An additional 100 women were involuntarily sterilized in prison during labor and delivery at LA County+USC Medical Center dating back to the late 1960s, as well as a small number of forced sterilizations performed during other surgeries.
Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo was elected as the representative of the 51st Assembly District in December of 2017. She is a member of the Health, Appropriations, Utilities & Energy, Privacy and Consumer Protections, Labor and Rules Committees. Carrillo represents the people of East Los Angeles, Northeast Los Angeles, and the neighborhoods of El Sereno, Echo Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown and parts of Silver Lake.