Assist. A&E Editor
Forced sterilization of women being held against their will in American immigration detention centers has come to light. Though unsurprising, it still is an undeniable atrocity that our government is casually committing. The immigration detention centers themselves, as well as the U.S.’s longstanding questionable policies on immigration, have come under immense criticism for what seems to be constant violations of human rights. This newest issue, the sterilization of detained women, though both shocking and upsetting, is not the first time the U.S. has decided to sterilize women of color.
The U.S., on more than one occasion, has acted in this manner for a matter of unsavory reasons. During the early 20th century, a large number of states took part in the eugenics movement and even had federally-funded programs specifically to sterilize those they deemed unfit to have children. This is not something taught in any U.S. history class, but is an undeniable demerit on the country’s past. The U.S. is built on the foundation of overt racism, and oppression and that can never be more clear than the instances of female eugenics and what is referred to as coerced sterilization (really, though, just forced). In the 1900s, during the eugenics push, hospitals sterilized thousands of Black and Indigenous women, and all of this was governmentally justified and funded by the Supreme Court ruling in Buck v. Bell.
Of course, there are a lot of people who may not know any better and think that the idea of forced or coerced sterilization sounds barbaric and unamerican and may even point to the Nazis’ use of such atrocious tactics of oppression. However, upon looking a little deeper, we can come to realize that Nazi Germany used the eugenics work done by the U.S. as a jumping off point for their own forced sterilizations. Yes, you read that right, the U.S. taught the Nazis where to start. That is not the only place the U.S. falls in line with Nazi Germany. During the second World War and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. chose to establish 10 internment camps across the U.S. and intern around 120,000 Japanese American citizens. It is no secret that the U.S. is familiar with atrocious acts of oppression and human rights violations like those they are committing now.
Overall, the immigration detention centers have been a clear cut violation of human rights and a clear depiction of how the U.S. responds to issues like immigration with very little tact and a heavy militaristic hand. It is a clear fact that the camps are problematic, to say the least, and have separated over 700 children from their families. However, the government now using coerced sterilization on women being kept at these camps is truly doubling down on the heinous activity.
Firstly, how, in any capacity, could this be seen as something that is necessary or good for any society or group of people, whether the immigrant population or the U.S. population? Part of the coercion is for possible reduced sentences, and the reasoning for the actions is to keep marginalized groups down. There has yet to be an official statement on the matter from any officials that have anything to do with the immigration detention centers, but the most likely reason and argument for such drastic, torturous actions is a form of reproductive and population control to really weaken already marginalized groups.
It is fascinating to see the forced sterilization coming from a government that does not even let women choose what to do with their own bodies. The same government that has taken issue with the ideas of abortion, and makes women go to counseling and sometimes even have a spouse’s consent before getting themselves voluntarily sterilized, has decided that sterilization is totally okay for non-citizens. A fine line exists, and it is habitually crossed by the U.S. government when it comes to what they think of human beings.
States started to ease up on the necessity for spousal consent to get one’s tubes tied, yet the Supreme Court has never released a decisive decision on the matter, and there are still some OBGYNs that require consent from not only the individual receiving the procedure but also their spouse. Of course, talking about other things the Supreme Court has yet to overturn, we are found looking dead into the eyes of the ugly, oppressive elephant that is Buck v. Bell. There have been two other cases that have to do with forced or coercive sterilization, which were Relf v. Weinberg and Madrigal v. Quilligan. These two cases countered Buck v. Bell in a sense, but the ruling itself has never been truly overturned, even after the push back during World War Two, the Nazis’ use of eugenics, and the case Skinner v. Oklahoma.
The final thing to be said is that, in all of the cases where sterilization has been pointed out and actually taken to court, were when there was somebody bold enough to blow the whistle. There is a lot to be said about the complex dynamic that comes with immigration, but the U.S. has really shown that it knows how to mishandle human rights and will willfully violate the rights of people they deem unworthy. This situation is shameful and should be completely shut down. There is no justifiable reasoning for forced or coerced sterilization, and the U.S. government should do everything in its power to rectify the act they have committed. There is no way to truly fix their actions; however, there are places to start.
Simply put, the immigration and forced sterilization issue needs to be stopped, and there needs to be a properly adopted immigration policy, as well as reparations and aid for those harmed by the immigration detention centers’ actions.
Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus