Apr 2 9:16 PM

California bill tackles sterilization of female inmates

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images

A bill was presented to the California Senate Health Committee on Wednesday that aims to close loopholes that allowed doctors under contract with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to sterilize hundreds of female inmates without state approval.

According to Justice Now, a human rights organization that partners with women in prison, California's Prison Sterilization Prohibition bill (SB 1135) was written in collaboration with people who experienced sterilization abuse. 

Courtney Hooks, Justice Now's campaign and communications director, told "The Stream," "The bill aims to try to find a way to reinforce and enhance the existing law so people can be protected." 

She said officials — often contracted out by institutions of confinement — were a large contributor to the abuses, as they claim they were not aware of the law. This bill calls for relevant laws to be incorporated into staff training sessions.

The bill further requires inmates to have access to a second medical opinion, psychological consultation and medical follow-ups. 

A detailed report of all sterilizations must also be submitted to the state. Hooks said this data is especially important to advocates so they can ensure that the legislation is being fully implemented. 

"We no longer have to rely on anecdotal evidence," she said. "We haven't been able to back up that this has been happening disproportionately to women of color and those who are gender nonconforming without this data."

Hooks, who attended the hearing, described the state Senate committee's reception to the bill and the testimony of Kelli Dillon, a victim of sterilization abuse: "I think the senators were moved by her testimony. They definitely responded to her powerful voice and were able to more deeply understand why their aye vote was necessary to end the legacy of eugenics in California."



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