News female inmates in California sterilized seemingly against their will or under questionable consent has raised an uncomfortable amount of scrutiny of prisoner treatment in the state, and women subject to the procedures have been stepping forward to describe what they say was a coercive effort to rob them of future attempts at motherhood.
The female inmates sterilized number a suspected 150 so far, and a handful have spoken to press about the years during which they were borderline forced to undergo fertility ending procedures, if their accounts are accurate.
One of the female inmates sterilized was serving time when she says she was pressured to consent to sterilization. Christine Cordero, 34, was having her fifth and final child during her incarceration in 2006 when she says the doctor strong armed her into consenting to the procedure.
As soon as he found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done. The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it … He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.
In 2010, Kimberly Jeffrey says she was similarly coerced by a doctor. Jeffrey managed to resist the pressure and avoid the procedure — but while she avoided becoming one of the female inmates sterilized, she says of her conversation with the doctor:
“He said, ‘So we’re going to be doing this tubal ligation, right?’ … I’m like, ‘Tubal ligation? What are you talking about? I don’t want any procedure. I just want to have my baby.’ I went into a straight panic.”
At the time of the attempted sterilization and the doctor’s request, Jeffrey says she was heavily sedated due to a c-section and strapped to a table — a violation of laws dating back to the 70s.
Former Valley State Prison health official Daun Martin denied a role in the alleged forced sterilizations, but framed the issue as one of empowerment.
Puzzlingly, however, Martin also expressed a desire to prevent inmates from having future children, and discussed personal feelings on the matter:
Do I criticize those women for manipulating the system because they’re pregnant? Absolutely not … But I don’t think it should happen. And I’d like to find ways to decrease that.
Valley State Prison OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich, is connected with many of the experiences of the female inmates sterilized, and Heinrich expresses similar distaste for the women as well as a preference they be sterilized.
“Over a 10-year period, [money spent on sterilizations] isn’t a huge amount of money … compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”
Even when confronted with the number of female inmates sterilized who object to the alleged pressure, Heinrich opines that the women are “somebody looking for the state to give them a handout,” adding that “the only reason you do that is not because you feel wronged, but that you want to stay on the state’s dole somehow.”