06.23.148:40 AM ET

At Least 39 Women Were Sterilized in CA

California law prohibits inmates from using sterilization as a means of birth control. Yet nearly 150 women had their tubes tied or cut over seven years – some without their consent.

California state law does not permit prison inmates to undergo sterilization as a means of birth control (it’s allowed only if medically necessary). As State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson told the Associated Press, regarding health care for female prisoners, “The experience in and of itself is extraordinarily coercive. It's very difficult for a woman to exercise her free will under those circumstances." Even so, a state audit of prison care between 2006 and 2013 found 144 cases in which inmates had had their fallopian tubes tied or cut solely for birth control. In 39 cases of those cases, the women may not have understood they were undergoing a procedure that would render them sterile. The report recommends that authorities investigate the 17 private doctors and eight hospitals that performed those surgeries; those cases will be referred to California's medical board and the Department of Public Health. There is also a bill before the state assembly – it already passed the senate – to clarify that prisons are NOT allowed to sterilize inmates. Auditors say there is currently confusion over prison policies. Apparently.