California Passes Bill Banning Forced Sterilizations of Inmates

By Julianne Hing Aug 25, 2014

Last Tuesday the California legislature passed a bill banning the forced sterilizations of inmates in California prisons, KQED reported. The California state Senate passed SB 1135, authored by State Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson of Santa Barbara, in a unanimous vote. The bill was a legislative response to a 2013 story from the Center for Investigative Reporting which found that prison physicians performed tubal ligations on at least 148 women inmates between 2006 and 2010 without state authorization.

SB 1135 will prohibit sterilizations except when a mother’s life is in danger or in order to treat a medical condition where no other less serious options exist.

"It’s clear that we need to do more to make sure that forced or coerced sterilizations never again occur in our jails and prisons," Jackson said in a statement. "Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic human rights."

Corey Johnson reported for CIR last year:

To be sure, tubal ligations represented a small portion of the medical care provided to pregnant inmates. Statistics and a report from the prison receiver’s office show that from 2000 to 2010, 2,423 women gave birth while imprisoned in California, costing the state $2.7 million. Fewer than 1 in 10 were surgically sterilized.

But the numbers don’t tell the full story. California still grapples with an ugly past: Under compulsory sterilization laws here and in 31 other states, minority groups, the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill and criminals were singled out as inferior and sterilized to prevent them from spreading their genes.

It was known as eugenics.

Gov. Jerry Brown must sign or veto the bill before the end of the state legislature’s session on August 31.