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Violating the violators: Women forced to undergo sterilization in CA prisons

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that at least 148 female inmates were allegedly coerced into sterilization by doctors and staff of the California Department of Corrections. The sterilizations cost the state $147,000.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to former inmates, doctors pressured pregnant women they thought would return to prison, to undergo sterilization. Doctors performed at least 148 tubal ligation procedures, apparently without proper consent.

The sterilizations occurred between 2006 and 2010.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, that's not right,'" Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate who worked in the prison's infirmary in 2007, told CIROnline.org. "Do they think they're animals, and they don't want them to breed anymore?"

According to women, prison doctors repeatedly brought the subject into conversation, pressuring them into having it done.

Former Valley State inmate Christina Cordero, who gave birth to a son in 2006 while in prison, said. "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. "

The doctors say they were only doing their job, informing women is high-risk categories for complications, of the need for the procedure.

Dr. James Heinrich, 69, who worked in the prison during the time in question, was quoted by Newsmax as saying that he never pressured women into being sterilized and that he knew the women would face further health problems if they continued to get pregnant.

Speaking of the need for sterilizations, "It was a medical problem that we had to make them aware of," Dr. Heinrich told CIROnline.org. "It's up to the doctor who's delivering to make you aware of what's going on. We're at risk for not telling them."

Now sterilized, at least 148 women no longer have the choice to bear children. Sterilization is considered immoral by the Catholic Church and other faith-based groups. Activists are evaluating the sterilizations to determine if any laws have been broken, if the women were coerced and charges can be filed.

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