California Bill Bans Forced Sterilization of Female Inmates

Legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will prohibit California prisons from forcing women to be sterilized for birth control.

The Democratic governor announced Thursday that he signed SB1135 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat. It takes effect Jan. 1.

The legislation makes forced sterilization illegal except in cases where the patient's life is in danger or it is needed to treat a medical condition. It also requires a second physician to consult with a patient about the effects of the procedure. Counseling about the permanency of the procedure must be provided as well.

"Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent is unacceptable, and violates our most basic human rights," the bill's author, state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, said in a statement.

Jackson introduced the legislation after the Center for Investigative Reporting found that female inmates at two California prisons — Central California Women's Facility and Valley State Prison for women — underwent forced sterilizations as recently as 2010. Jackson said that an inmate advocacy group, Justice Now, helped bring these stories to light.

CIR's report found that doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 inmates from 2006 to 2010 without the proper state approvals. State documents and interviews showed that at least 148 women receievd tubal litigations in violation of prison rules during that period, and at least a 100 more dated back to the late 1990s, CIR's investigation found.

The California Legislative Women's Caucus, of which Jackson is the incoming chair, wrote a letter to the state Correctional Health care Services expressing outrage over reports of unlawful sterilization of female inmates, resulting on an audit of the issue. The audit found 39 "unlawful" cases violating state rules that required female inmates to understand the nature and permanance of the procedures that would leave them sterile.

“No one should have their opportunity to be a mother taken away or decided for them,” said Kelli Dillon, who experienced sterilization abuse at the age of 24 while in prison in California, according to a statement from Jackson.

Dillon now lives in Los Angeles and works as a domestic violence counselor and gang interventionist.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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