Reproductive Rights

California Legislature Votes to Restrict Sterilization of Prison Inmates

Both the California Senate and assembly unanimously passed a bill last week significantly restricting the sterilization of state prison inmates.

f8grapher /
f8grapher for Shutterstock

SB1135 bans the practice of sterilization with a few exceptions, including if the person’s life is in danger or sterilization is medically necessary to treat a diagnosed condition. Jails and prisons will also be required to publish data about the procedures online, with the information broken down by race, age, and justification for the procedure.

The bill was introduced after an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) found around 150 women may have been illegally sterilized without state approval between 2006 and 2010. Many women had been intensely pressured by prison doctors, and some were sterilized without the proper approval and documentation from the state. California has a history of forced sterilizations, with tens of thousands of sterilizations taking place in the 20th century of people deemed “unfit” to have children, and legislators have made several attempts to restrict the practice. The current bill aims to fill some of the gaps left by previous legislation restricting it.

“It’s clear that we need to do more to make sure that forced or coerced sterilizations never again occur in our jails and prisons,” Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the author of the bill, said in a statement. “Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic rights.”

The bill now awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. If he does not sign it within 12 days, it will go into effect by default.

Media Resources: The Center for Investigative Reporting 8/19/14; RH Reality Check 8/22/14; California Legislative Information 2/20/14; Feminist Majority Foundation Blog 7/1/14

Support eh ERA banner