07.08.1311:30 AM ET

Inmates Sterilized in California

More than 150 women underwent procedure without state approval.

Between 2006 and 2010, nearly 150 female prison inmates in California were sterilized without proper state approvals, and many say they were coerced. “The allegations echo those made nearly a half-century ago, when forced sterilizations of prisoners, the mentally ill, and the poor were commonplace in California,” writes Corey G. Johnson of the Center for Investigative Reporting. Because of that history, it’s illegal to use federal funds to sterilize prisoners, and in California, state funds can only be used on a case-by-case basis, each one requiring authorization from top medical officials. Yet in two California women’s prisons, these requirements were ignored. Doctors involved insist they were only giving inmates access to the same sort of care available in the outside world, but the women tell another story. Johnson interviewed one woman who says doctors tried to get her to agree to a tubal ligation while she was strapped to a surgical table for a C-section. “I’m like, ‘Tubal ligation? What are you talking about? I don’t want any procedure. I just want to have my baby,’” she said. “I went into a straight panic.”