From the Field

Advocates celebrate new law that reverses some of California’s “living legacy of eugenics”

Lauren Taylor • Sep 27, 2014

Read more on Imagine 2050 about reproductive oppression in prisons by reproductive justice pioneer Loretta Ross.

Last summer, disturbing tales of sterilization in California women’s prisons surfaced in the national news. Between 2006 and 2010, nearly 150 people were sterilized at two California prisons, many without their full consent. The grassroots human rights group Justice Now first brought these experiences of coercive sterilization to light and led efforts to address the systemic and specific reproductive abuses. On Thursday, California’s governor signed a bill that expands protections for prisoners in hopes of preventing further harm.

Below is an excerpt from Justice Now’s full response:

On Sept. 25th Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1135 Prison Anti-Sterilization bill authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, sponsored by legal and human rights organization Justice Now, and included bi-partisan co-authorship. The bill went before the Governor after passing unanimously out of both the Senate and Assembly floors with support from the organizations like ACLU Northern California, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Black Women for Wellness. Supporters of the bill along with those directly impacted by these sterilization say not only is it long overdue but makes sense after so much evidence was presented outlining the abuses.

“This bill not only affects those still inside prisons and the thousands of women who will go through prisons and jails in the near future; but most importantly it protects generations of children to come who otherwise might not have had an opportunity to exist ” says Kelli Dillon who was sterilized in her early 20’s while incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. Kelli, however, goes on to say “we still need an apology and acknowledgement of what was done to us.” While this bill comes a long way in addressing the abusive and coercive conditions under which sterilizations were happening it is a reminder that work still needs to be done to properly address those who had their ability to have children so callously and egregiously taken away.

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