Corey G. Johnson reports that California has been illegally sterilizing female prisoners as recently as 2010. Some inmates say they were coerced into the procedure, even while giving birth:
Kimberly Jeffrey says she was pressured by a doctor while sedated and strapped to a surgical table for a C-section in 2010, during a stint at Valley State. She had failed a drug test while out on parole for a previous series of thefts. Jeffrey, 43, was horrified, she said, and resisted. “He said, ‘So we’re going to be doing this tubal ligation, right?’ ” Jeffrey said. “I’m like, ‘Tubal ligation? What are you talking about? I don’t want any procedure. I just want to have my baby.’ I went into a straight panic.”
Eli Lehrer says conservatives ought to be appalled:
Pro-lifers probably should get mileage out of the observation that forced sterilization of the “feeble minded” harkens back to the eugenics movement of the early 20th century that Planned Parenthood Founder Margret Sanger helped to forward. It’s also perfectly legitimate to tie the casual acceptance of a clearly barbaric practice to a “culture of death” that also does so much to promote abortion.
But these points, while legitimate, miss a deeper lesson that all conservatives should take to heart: prison officials’ efforts to justify forced sterilization reflect an attitude that people in prison are sub-human. The major reason to force people to give up their reproductive potential (among the most natural of all rights), as California did, is a determination by the state that their crimes deprive them of even the most basic of rights. It’s the same thinking that results in the casual acceptance of rape behind bars and dozens of other horrible things. And this casual type of dehumanization, in turn, undermines the most fundamental teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
No need to pull a Jonah Goldberg. This ties together two causes: the autonomy of marginalized women and openness to the creation of human life. But I wonder if the pro-life world really cares about the former.
(Photo: Exhibit depicting the status of compulsory sterilization legislation in the United States in 1921.)