California has officially banned the forced sterilization of female inmates, following the signing of SB 1135, Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Thursday. The law will take effect on Jan. 1, a fact which invokes shock that forced sterilization wasn’t already prohibited, and that prisoners will technically have to wait three months for the guarantee of basic reproductive freedoms. 

The legislation was introduced following a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting that inmates were sterilized at two California prisons as recently as 2010. In June, a state audit showed there were 144 tube typing procedures between 2005-2006 and 2012-2013. Of those, 39 out of 144 did not give appropriate consent, among other problems. There is concern that many of the women may not have understood they were submitting to medical procedures that would leave them sterile, or may have been in coercive circumstances. 

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For more information on the history of forced sterilization and the investigation that prompted the law, take a look at this 2013 documentary, Sterilized behind bars.  

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Image by Rachael Romero, 1978, via Inkworks Press. 

 

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