More than 130 female prisoners at two California facilities were sterilized over a four-year period without required state approval, and some of the women have claimed they were pressured, harassed and even tricked into signing forms agreeing to the sterilizations. The procedure, known as tubal ligation, involves severing a woman’s fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from reaching the uterus; the operation requires general anesthesia and is considered permanent.
The surgeries were performed from 2006 to 2010 at outside medical facilities by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for California Correctional Health Care Services – the federal court-appointed receiver over CDCR medical care – said the procedures violated state regulations that restrict tubal ligations not deemed medically necessary. They did not, however, violate state law.
According to public records, doctors were paid $147,460 to perform the sterilizations on female prisoners from the California Institution for Women and Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), which first reported the story on July 7, 2013, initially identified 148 prisoners who were sterilized from 2006 to 2010, but that number was later revised downward to 132 after a further review indicated some of the women had been counted twice. “Perhaps 100 more” prisoners were reportedly sterilized between 1997 and 2006.
Although they signed consent forms, several of the women complained they were pressured into agreeing to the procedures by medical staff and doctors, especially the OB-GYN at Valley State Prison, Dr. James Heinrich.