Governor Signs Jackson Bill To Halt Forced or Coerced Sterilizations in Prisons

September 25, 2014

SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown has just signed a bill by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to prohibit forced or coerced sterilizations in prisons.

Senate Bill 1135 is a response to media reports from the Center for Investigative Reporting last year of unlawful and coercive sterilization of female inmates at the Central California Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison for Women that were occurring as late as 2010. An inmate advocacy group, Justice Now, helped bring these stories to light.

SB 1135 adds a section to the penal code to prohibit sterilizations in correctional facilities for the purposes of birth control except in cases when a patient’s life is in danger or if it is needed to treat a medical condition and no other less drastic measure is feasible. In addition, a second independent physician must consult with the patient about the effects of the procedure before it is undertaken. Counseling about the permanency of the procedure must be provided as well.

“Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent is unacceptable, and violates our most basic human rights,” said Jackson. “This bill will help ensure that forced or coerced sterilizations never occur in our jails and prisons, and I’m very pleased that the Governor has signed it into law.”

“No one should have their opportunity to be a mother taken away or decided for them,” said Kelli Dillon, who experienced sterilization abuse at the age of 24 while in prison in California. She lives now in Los Angeles and works as a domestic violence counselor and gang interventionist. “This bill will protect the rightful reproductive capacity of women inside prison.”

In 2013, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, of which Jackson is incoming chair, wrote a letter to California Correctional Health Care Services Federal Receiver Clark Kelso expressing outrage over reports of unlawful sterilization of female inmates. At the request of the leadership of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, the state auditor conducted an audit of this issue. A copy of the audit’s findings, released in June, can be found here.

SB 1135 received unanimous, bipartisan support as it moved through the California Legislature. It is co-authored by the current chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, and is a priority bill of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.
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Contact: Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4019 or lisa.gardiner@sen.ca.gov