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Audit Finds That California Prisoners Were Illegally Sterilized


A California State Audit has found that dozens of women in state prisons were sterilized illegally. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone says prison medical officials are faulted for not following consent laws.  

Lawmakers called for the audit after coverage from the Center for Investigative Reporting last year. The Center found more than 100 incarcerated women had tubal ligations without proper approvals since 2006.

The new audit shows that in some cases, physicians didn’t sign forms to certify that a waiting period was observed, and that the patients understood the procedure’s implications.

Democratic State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson says the findings show a systemic problem in the prison system.

Jackson: “We have to stop this culture, we have to stop this behavior and remove California from a history of eugenics which have been practiced in this state since the 1930s.”

But California Correctional Health Care Services says it halted unauthorized sterilizations when it became aware of them in 2010. 

Liz Gransee: “As we’ve moved forward in the past four years, we’re continuing to increase those steps to ensure further safeguards.”

The agency’s Liz Gransee says it’s planning to comply with the State Auditor’s recommendations. That includes referring unlawful cases to the California Medical Board so it can investigate the involved providers. 

Gransee: “We’re continuing to improve health care as we go on.”

Angel Rinehart was sterilized during a prison term starting in 2007.

Rinehart: “Now I’m in another relationship… I’m probably getting married soon, and now I’m not going to be able to give my husband children, and I don’t have enough money to change the circumstances.”

Senator Jackson says in the prison setting, it’s not possible to get consent for sterilization in a reliable or responsible way.  She and advocates have crafted a bill that would prohibit sterilizations in prisons, except under limited circumstances.

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