Over the course of several years, two women's prisons in California signed at least 150 pregnant women up for permanent sterilization to be performed after they gave birth, without following the required state approval procedure. And now, some women who underwent the procedure say they felt coerced into having a tubal ligation while incarcerated, according to a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Forced sterilization of institutionalized human beings — those in mental institutions, or in prisons, for example — has a long and greusome history in the U.S., and in California in particular, where forced sterilization has been against the law since 1979. Because of this history, there are a number of laws in place to prevent institutions from performing the procedure without full, freely-given consent. It's against the law to pressure a female inmate to have the procedure during labor or childbirth, which just seems obvious. And you can't use federal funding to pay for the procedure in a prison, because of worries that the funding would make inmates feel like they had to do it. And in California, where state money can fund inmate sterilization procedures, each individual procedure must be approved by a medical review committee. In California's California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla (the latter is now a men's prison), that approval process wasn't happening between 2006 and 2010, and possibly for many years before that.