Forced Sterilisation and race

Recent legislation regarding the forced sterilizations performed on incarcerated women in California prisons evokes a muted time in U.S. history when sexist, racist, classist and ableist eugenics policies were orchestrated by the state.

But while the scandal evokes skeletons of days past, the problem is far from dead and buried. Today, state oversight is the perpetrator, as the 39 female inmates who were sterilized from 2005 to 2013 without meeting state requirements for consent exemplify. Despite these nuances, however, forced sterilization looks a lot like it did under the United States’ early Supreme Court-backed eugenic laws: brushed off and racialized.

Such an infuriating issue should attract the ire of the feminist community, but so far there are mostly crickets. This unresponsiveness echoes the attention women’s rights and reproductive justice groups have historically given to forced sterilization, a procedure that overwhelmingly plagues women of color and, in California, has disproportionately affected prisoners of color.

For more, go here.

3 thoughts on “Forced Sterilisation and race

  1. Eleanor, really, give us a break. The word appears in a quote.

    You are asked in effect to comment on it and the rest of the article. Taking a word in the quote to reveal an attitude on our part is questionable at least, and it doesn’t raise the important issues that need discussing.

  2. Delurking for a moment because I appreciate this site and its writers and I’d like to see this important post get at least one on-topic comment.

    1. Important topic. Frightening subject matter. Thank you for highlighting it.

    2. Re: “So far there are mostly crickets”
    I always find these sorts of statements problematic. How does one do a comprehensive survey of all feminists in order to reach this conclusion? Or is the original author (of the quoted article) commenting on prominent feminist pundits? Academic feminism? White feminism? I *do* see discussions about this (including here: thank you), so my subjective assessment of the state of the discourse is different.

    3. There was recent news coverage of a long-term birth control device that is embedded and can be turned on or off remotely.

    Reading about it made me think of the problematic history in the US of eugenics, race, and forced sterilization, because my impression was that the device is minimally invasive and many women could experience “unexpected/unexplained” infertility without knowing it was the cause. The potential for (eugenics-driven) racialized abuse here is vast.

    (So far I haven’t seen any feminists connect the news around this device to its potential for forced sterilization. But I don’t assume that my reading on the subject is comprehensive and I hope the conversation is going on somewhere.)

    Consider the ire of this particular feminist to have been already attracted. Now what?

    Thank you again for posting this.

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