California Approves Reparations for Victims of Forced Sterilizations

California Approves Reparations for Victims of Forced Sterilizations BELatina Latinx
Photo: The Guardian.

When people wonder why the Hispanic community distrusts doctors and the U.S. health care system, one need only recall the terrible chapter in the country’s history called the eugenics movement.

Initiated in the late 19th century, this movement adopted what is known as negative eugenics, with the goal of eliminating “undesirable genetic traits” in the human race through selective breeding.

During the American eugenics movement, laws were enacted legalizing forced sterilizations and prohibiting the marriage of mentally or physically defective persons and mixed-race couples.

The main victims of this movement were hundreds of thousands of women.

Supporters of this movement believed that sterilizations for people with mental illness, physical disabilities, and other traits they considered undesirable would improve the human race.

California, in particular, sterilized more than 20,000 people before its law was repealed in 1979, and this week took its first step toward settling this terrible historical debt.

As ABC News reported, the state is on the verge of approving reparations of up to $25,000 for some of the thousands of people — some as young as 13 — who were sterilized decades ago because the government deemed them unfit to have children.

State lawmakers have set aside $7.5 million for the reparations program as part of their $262.6 billion operating budget that is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

As ABC continued, California’s proposal is unique because it would also pay for women the state forced to be sterilized while in prison, some as recently as 2010. First exposed by the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2013, a subsequent audit found that California sterilized 144 women between 2005 and 2013 with little or no evidence that officials counseled them or offered alternative treatment.

Although all of the women signed consent forms, in 39 cases, officials failed to do everything legally required to obtain their permission.

“It’s only the beginning,” said state Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles who has been advocating for reparations. “I can’t imagine the trauma, the depression, the stress of being incarcerated, being rehabilitated and trying to start your life again in society, wanting to start a family, only to find out that that choice was taken away from you.”