California prison doctors sterilized women to cut welfare costs
California prison doctors sterilized almost 150 women over a four-year period because they didn’t want the state to have to provide welfare funding to any children they might have in the future, one of the top doctors admitted this week.
California taxpayers spent $147,460 on the procedures between 1997 and 2010. ”Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money,” Dr. James Heinrich, the OB-GYN at Valley State Prison for Women, told the Center for Investigative Reporting, “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”
Heinrich’s argument recalls progressive Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who declared “three generations of imbeciles are enough” in the opinion he wrote for the majority inBuck vs Bell (1927), in which the Supreme Court ruled that women could be forcibly sterilized.
“We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives,” Holmes wrote. “It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence.”
Unlike Carrie Buck, these women agreed to the sterilizations, but only because they felt pressured by the doctors. ”I figured that’s just what happens in prison – that that’s the best kind of doctor you’re going get,” a former inmate told CIR.The doctors flouted a regulation requiring state approval for each procedure, as the prison medical manager told CIR she signed off on the sterilizations as long as Heinrich “document[ed] it as a medical emergency.”
An egregious violation of human rights and human dignity. One of the most fundamental of human rights is the right to found a family. These women retain their basic human dignity even in prison, and they retain the right to found a family once they are out of prison.
The sterilization of prisoners, even with "consent", is inherently coercive, and is never moral.
The doctors should lose their licenses, and doctors and administrators involved should be criminally prosecuted and should face civil action.
This reeks of eugenic sterilization in the early 20th century-- California was a hotbed of eugenics and carried out more involuntary sterilizations than any other state. It even has echoes of Nazi abuses.
I hope and pray there is justice here.