America has been split down the middle when it comes to issues of immigration. It’s ironic, of
course, considering that unless you are Indigenous, we are all immigrants here. Last time I checked, the Puritans who left England in search of religious justice didn’t have to RSVP when they hit the banks of the Massachusetts shore. But if that immigrant happens to be white, there seems to be a double standard. There also seems to be a double standard when it comes to abortion and reproductive rights. Abortion is considered murder when women make choices about their own bodies. But when it comes to giving women forced hysterectomies in ICE detention centers, seemingly then, it is justified. Double standards are the thorn in women’s sides.
Forced sterilization has been a constant method in American history. It has been performed on women of color for generations. You would think that as a society we have developed and have realized that the shit you got away with in the 1600s doesn’t fly now in the 21st century. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Instead of using sterilization for healthy, consensual reasons, the American government has been forcing it upon women of color in order to prevent them from giving birth to future generations.
In the early 20th century, sterilization was performed on African American women in prisons, because men in power believed that if those women had children, their children would become criminals. Obviously, they were a bit racist and sexist. Sterilization was also common in Indigenous communities. The US General Accounting Office has said that the Indian Health Service performed 3,406 sterilization procedures on Native American women without their consent in just the years 1973 to 1976. It is absolutely outrageous that this was even done in the first place but to think it was just 50 years ago is horrifying. America is not exempt from this tyranny, even today.
This time, forced sterilization is being performed in the ICE detention facilities on Latinx migrant women. Specifically, in the Irwin County ICE facility in rural Georgia. A nurse recently spoke out against what she had seen while she was working there. Doctors and other nurses wouldn’t try to fix the language barrier that separated them from their patient, but in fact used it to their advantage. Numerous women have come forward and said that while they were staying at the facility they were told they had to go through an emergency surgery. They were not given adequate information to what the surgery entailed, and they were just put to sleep. When they woke up, they were missing their uteruses.
The whistleblower nurse who exposed the ICE facility has said that women she worked with would call one specific gynecologist, Mahendra Amin, the “uterus collector”. There are even allegations that this doctor wasn’t even a board certified OB-GYN. Human rights activists have since sided with the nurse and many women have stepped forward, backing up the nurses’ claims. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has since said that a thorough investigation needs to be done about the allegations.
T he rights of women to their bodies has always been a controversial subject, but the discussion has increased within the last few years. So-called morally righteous people have been trying to take over female autonomy since the beginning of the United States. Yet most look away when women who have just left their home country are thrown into a prison, treated like criminals, and are put through a surgery to remove their organs without their consent. No woman who wants to live in this country—who simply just wants to exist in this country—should have to give away her uterus to do so. What do we, American citizens, give to live in this country? Certainly not our organs. We wake up everyday and take it all for granted. Yet, immigrants right on our borders are subject to such cruelty. Women who come here are thrown in these camps and are manipulated, their own bodies becoming property to the American government. No matter where a woman goes in her lifetime, her body will never be her own.
Immigrant women migrate to America for a better life. How are they supposed to start their life over here after they have just been violated in such an inhumane way? Maybe these women wanted to have children in the future, and now they can’—that blood is now on America’s hands.
We have men making laws about women’s bodies. At the last women’s health conference in the White House, not a single woman was present. It is truly ridiculous that we trust a bunch of insecure white men to dictate laws about women’s bodies. It is ridiculous that we are letting these men forcibly sterilize women just because people of color make them feel “uncomfortable.” But guess what? These women migrated to America for a reason, and they are not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere. And people of color are not. Going. Anywhere.
We, America, the land of the people, have children in cages and women’s organs being torn from them. The pigment of a woman’s skin and where she comes from does not dictate her humanity.Our government needs to stop treating it like it does.
By Clare Buchanan