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Hysterectomies at the Border: What You Should Know

Forced sterilization is a scary part of American history that no one talks about. That is, until recent reports of hysterectomies at ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) were revealed. A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus. Though the United States has publicly voiced its opposition to this moral controversy, forced sterilizations still occur beneath the surface of what the public sees.

Forced sterilization in America first gained traction in the mid-1800s when a Texas biologist and physician proposed a bill mandating forced sterilization for people who were mentally handicapped. The law was rejected up until 1907, when Indiana became the first state to pass a mandatory sterilization law for those who are “feebleminded.” This highly controversial issue hit the Supreme Court in 1927, where it was decided eight to one that forced sterilization laws are constitutional, and therefore legal. It wasn’t until World War Two occurred and Nazis used the same reasoning for forced sterilization when the United States suddenly publicly switched opinions.

The Black Lives Matter movement, for instance, has raised awareness of the racism that occurs in the medical field. Black women have nearly four times higher maternal mortality rate than white women, which makes you question where else racism is prevalent, in what should be, a non-biased medical field.

The latest controversy at the heart of the eugenics debate lies in what the media has proclaimed as mass hysterectomies at the Irwin ICE detention center in Georgia. Dawn Wooten, the latest whistleblower, wrote a twenty-seven page exposé to the DHS Office of Inspector General, revealing the inhumane treatment of immigrants. Aside from pointing out the wave of unwanted hysterectomies which occurred in the center, Wooten describes the immoral way ICE has dealt with COVID-19 in the workplace and in taking care of the immigrants at the center.    

Wooten accuses ICE of allowing employees to work while waiting for test results, withholding information about who has tested positive, underreporting cases, and allowing immigrants to transfer to new facilities while positive for the virus. After around ten pages of Wooten’s complaint on the virus, she switches gears and begins to discuss the suspicious hysterectomies she’s noticed recently. Wooten raises suspicion about how well immigrants understand what’s happening to them. She continues, explaining that she interviewed five women who had hysterectomies who were completely unaware of why the procedure occurred. 

Overall, the United States holds a pretty strict stance on contraceptive methods and makes sure white Americans choose a reversible contraceptive. So why did so many women at the detention center receive irreversible surgery? It is important to note that the whistleblower didn’t provide many specifics, but with the countless other horrors reported at ICE detention facilities, are unsolicited hysterectomies really so difficult to believe? 


Kismet Kohn is an 18 year old psychology major at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. She is passionate about photography, writing, and travel. Kismet was on her high school's yearbook staff as a photographer and worked as the editor of the Literary Magazine.
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