The California State Auditor will soon begin looking into how and why doctors were sterilizing female prisoners in California against prison rules. A state legislative committee approved the audit following a request by the legislative women’s caucus.
Their request at a legislative audit committee hearing was prompted by a recent investigation by CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting which found that tubal ligations were performed on nearly 150 prisoners between 2006 and 2010, and on perhaps hundreds more dating back to 1997. The women signed consent forms, but some of them say they were coerced.
This woman testified that she signed a sterilization consent form while pregnant and incarcerated in the 1990’s. Missy Rojo of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners said, ”When you’re in prison, you do what you’re told to do to get out. So even in the idea of medical care, if the doctor tells you you should do this, you’re automatically inclined to feel like you should do it simply because of the environment you’re in. And you’re likely to sign a paper without fully understanding the lifelong ramifications, especially if they hand you a paper, you sign it, that’s it. Some people may be happy with that decision, but at the end of the day, it is not informed consent, it is coercive.”
Rojo was released before giving birth so never had the procedure performed in prison. Tubal ligations are no longer being done in the prisons, except in cases of medical necessity, but members of the women’s caucus say the state needs to get to the bottom of why they were ever performed. State Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson said, ”outrageous, offensive, really kind of revolting that these women were being sterilized, many of whom didn’t even know they were being sterilized. But the fact that this was going on in our prisons really is something that is just not acceptable to us
here in California.”
The audit is expected to take six to seven months.