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By now, you’ve likely heard the appalling news of medical neglect and forced sterilization of immigrants detained by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). As outlined in the complaint of a whistleblower, (a nurse at the Irwin County ICE Detention Center in Georgia, now identified as Dawn Wooten), detained women are being forced to undergo unnecessary hysterectomies without their full knowledge or consent. 

Ms. Wooten's whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years. In fact, there is a long history of reproductive violence against people of color in this country. These recent claims serve as an important reminder that the white supremacy, xenophobia, and racism that pervade our institutions are not abstract concepts – they have very real and terrible consequences for women and their families. As a reproductive health organization, we must confront past and present medical injustices. We are grateful to Ms. Wooten for her bravery in exposing these atrocities.

Last month Planned Parenthood Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley held a panel on Allyship in Reproductive Health Care. Our Medical Director, Dr. Noah Nattell, spoke of pervasive injustices in our medical system:

“As late as 2010, a doctor in Northern California was sterilizing women in prison without their knowledge or consent. How does a person in chains consent to something like that? How could Anarcha, one of Dr. Sims patients, consent to the 30 surgeries done without anesthesia? So I don’t blame anyone for mistrust in the medical system. The result of unscrupulous actions by doctors have far-reaching effects not only in the way people feel about medicine but in the way medicine is practiced. I hope we can take these lessons, learn from them, expose them, so we learn and change.”

Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley is committed to improving health care access and outcomes. We believe that the right to exercise bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom - with informed consent - is a human right. We proudly provide sexual and reproductive health care to all people, no matter their background, insurance, or immigration status. That is why we commit to this fight for justice. 

We stand in solidarity with the immigrant rights movement in condemning the abuse, medical neglect, and violations that have taken place under ICE and private detention facilities. Until everyone can exercise the fundamental right to control what happens to their body, no one in America is truly free.

Tags: Health Equity, equity, injustice