Not Just ICE: A California Prison Sterilized Her and Other Black Women squib

Courtesy Idle Wild Films

Eugenics is still happening in the U.S. under the guidance of state medical authorities—and has been for decades. On Monday, a watershed whistleblower complaint from Dawn Wooten, a nurse working in ICE’s Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, was filed by legal advocacy groups, Vice News reported. The complaint details forced sterilization of migrant women via mass hysterectomies. Wooten alleges that several detained migrant women would come to her asking why they had received hysterectomies, with one woman inquiring if the gynecologist they were seeing was a “uterus collector.” In plain terms, Wooten’s claim is that a population of deeply vulnerable racialized women, many of whom have already been separated from their children, are being sterilized by employees of the U.S. government.

“In one case,” Wooten said, “a woman who ended up with a hysterectomy was not properly anesthetized and overheard the doctor say that he’d taken out the wrong ovary. That woman had to go back and get her other ovary removed as well,” reported Vice News. If true, this means that yet again, the U.S. is practicing the science of eugenics—“the idea that it is possible to improve humans by allowing only some people to produce children,” as defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary—on its most vulnerable populations. 

In the wake of Wooten’s complaint, many journalists have commented that there has been a long history of forced sterilizations in the U.S., particularly with Native American and Black women in the early Jim Crow era. But what many commentators don’t realize is that Wooten’s whistleblower complaint is not the only modern example of forced sterilization in detention. 

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