This week, a Black woman’s report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has surfaced alleging alarming practices at DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Irwin County, Georgia. Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse, who worked at the facility for three years, alleges that immigrant women of color were forced or coerced into unnecessary hysterectomy procedures against their will. Reports have alleged that the main perpetrator of these procedures of was a Dr. Mahendra Amin of Douglas, Georgia, who has continued to see women from the Irwin County Detention Center for the past several years despite complaints from his patients. Ms. Wooten also alleges that ICE officials ignored COVID-19 safety and prevention precautions; denied COVID-19 testing to the detainees being held there; shredded medical requests submitted by detainees and fabricated their medical records.
Hysterectomies have a long, racist history in America as a medical tool to control the “unfit” population because the procedures make it impossible for the target population to bear children and thereby pass on their “undesirable” genes. The targets of these efforts were often Black women, Latina women, and Indigenous women, and many members of the LGBTQ population. The earliest account of a forced hysterectomy was performed by Dr. J. Marion Sims, an Alabama surgeon and slave owner who carried out a series of experimental operations on black slave women between 1845 and 1849. Sims' medical human experiments, sometimes referred to today as “medical apartheid” mirrors ICE’s alleged alarming actions on powerless, unconsenting women.
Eugenics, the practice of systematic population control, was first coined in 1883 and used by the U.S. Government for decades. This practice was also part of Nazi Germany’s genetic engineering program, where doctors were known to perform hysterectomies in concentration camps. The Nazi practice of eugenics was influenced by and concurrent with American programming.
It is easy for Americans to believe that this practice is a relic of the past or the problem of other countries. However many Black, Latina, and Indigenous people are acutely aware that these practices continued on well into the 1980s. If these allegations are found to be true, Ms. Wooten’s horrifying but courageous report shines a light on the white supremacy that still hides beneath the white coat. Forced or coerced hysterectomies are an egregious abuse that violates human rights laws and impedes women’s autonomy over their own bodies. These allegations, if true, also constitute medical battery and malpractice.
At the cornerstone of reproductive justice is the belief that people who can get pregnant must have control when, if, and how they choose to. We, at SisterLove, are disgusted by these allegations and will remain on the front lines of the Reproductive Justice movement abolish forced sterilization, medical racism and medical battery against women of color in America and globally. It is imperative that medical violence against women is stopped. We will keep you updated on this situation.
Please sign the petition HERE to let your representatives know you are against this practice and are committed to dismantling a system that causes harm to our bodies, our families, and our communities.
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Read the inspiring story of Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), an American civil rights activist whose own forced sterilization in 1961 mobilized her into action.