Eugenics are defined as the arrangement of reproduction within the human population in order to increase the occurrence of certain desirable characteristics. The eugenics movement was first introduced to America in the early 20th century, despite its principles dating back to Ancient Greece. It was originally coined by Francis Galton in the late 1800s.
In 1897, Michigan was the first state to propose eugenics in legislation, which did not pass at the time. Several years later in 1913, Michigan passed this piece of legislation but primarily enforced it on those who were deemed “mentally defective” or “insane.”
The law was then adapted in 1923 for the addition of x-rays for vasectomies and salpingectomies and was expanded to those who were considered imbeciles but not insane. In 1929, the law was expanded to include those who were found to be harmful to the general public such as pedophiles, which was an even larger number of the population.
“In the 1920s, the Supreme Court voted on Buck v. Bell, which boiled down to the legalization of eugenics and forced sterilization of those deemed “unfit” to reproduce,” said Maria Ruedisueli (‘21).
“This statute has not been overturned and there have been thousands of forced sterilizations across the country since this passed.”
Since mid-September, there have been reports to the Department of Homeland Security about forced hysterectomies performed on immigrants who are located at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Irwin County Detention center in Georgia. Hysterectomies are female sterilization, which cuts or blocks the fallopian tubes to prevent eggs and sperm from meeting. Dawn Wooten, who used to work full-time at the detention center, was the nurse who raised these concerns.
In her report, she explained that immigrants were not receiving accurate information in regard to their treatments.
Forced sterilization has long been an issue within minority groups, and it appears that this time is no different. “Minorities have always been a target for the upper and middle Anglo-Saxton population,” said Ruedisueli. “It is fueled by an irrational fear of displacement and losing their status in society.”
Such is the case in prisons and detention centers now. Official complaints received by the Department of Homeland Security say that immigrants have specifically been targeted as of lately, as shown in Georgia. This maltreatment of immigrants and minority groups is a concept that has long been practiced within the United States.
There have been at least 148 women in California’s prisons from 2006-2010 who have reported forced hysterectomies. “Sterilization of women is still taking place in prisons as of quite recently, and with new reports, it appears that this trend is back again at the border,” said Ruedisueli.
While forced sterilization within the United States is still a problem, steps have been taken to lessen its frequency. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the government of the United States had begun to provide funding towards reproductive health for both men and women. President Obama signed the Eugenics Compensation Act into law in 2016 which has provided thousands of Americans federal safety net programs.
Election day in the United States is arriving quickly. There has been a lack of response from political officials regarding forced hysterectomies at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Irwin County Detention center in Georgia.