A month ago, a nurse issued a complaint alleging that immigrant women were given unwanted sterilization procedures at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. As a result, it caused outrage and debate across the U.S.

The Los Angeles Times recently published a story on a new report of 19 women coming forward from the same detention center. All of these women were patients of Dr. Mahendra Amin, a gynecologist used for the center. The report described the women’s experience with the doctor. In addition, the report contains records that help support the women’s claims.

The women described being coerced into unwanted medical procedures. The procedures ranged from full hysterectomies to other procedures that compromised their fertility. Many stated not getting proper details on their procedures. And a number of the women claimed they were even sent to Amin for issues unrelated to reproductive health.

As scary as these allegations are, they are not new to the U.S.

The Eugenics Movement

The Eugenics Movement occurred in the U.S. in the early 1900s. Eugenics is the practice of selective breeding in humans to weed out “undesirable” traits. The movement became popular as a way to improve American society.

The rhetoric was that minority groups put a strain on American society. So, they felt that breeding them out would solve issues like crime, poverty, and disease outbreaks. These assumptions were based on racial bias and not facts. Accordingly, the movement was a tool against BIPOC, immigrants, and people in poverty.

The movement justified laws that put many people in harm’s way. Thus, marriage restrictions, anti-immigration laws, and sterilization laws carried out the movement’s legacy. For instance, 33 states passed legislation making involuntary sterilization possible. In just California, about 20,000 sterilization procedures took place between 1909 to 1979.

Later, the American Eugenics Movement became an inspiration to Adolf Hitler. Simultaneously, the horrid practices carried out in the Holocaust caused the movement to lose popularity in the U.S.

The movement may have lost its popularity, but unwanted sterilization procedures kept happening. For example, the forced sterilization of Native American women was prevalent in the 1970s, with an estimate of 25 to 50% undergoing sterilization. Even as recent as 2006 to 2010, it has been stated that about 150 women in California prisons were given sterilization procedures.

Truly, this is not an issue of the past.

The Present

In conclusion, the fight for reproductive freedoms is ongoing. Unwanted sterilization can still occur today. Immigrants and BIPOC can still be targets for these practices. The women who came forward expressed feeling helpless. Their status as immigrants makes them vulnerable. More measures should be in place to protect people in similar vulnerable circumstances.

These women’s allegations are a wake-up call. Hopefully, their allegations will increase protective measures to be put in place for the future.