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WASHINGTON, October 2, 2020 — Weeks after nurse Dawn Wooten came forward with allegations of forced and coerced hysterectomies performed on immigrant women at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), Planned Parenthood Federation of America and leading social justice organizations based in Georgia are reiterating the need for immediate action to end these atrocities. Recognizing the long history of similar abuse in the U.S., Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced a resolution, HR 1153, that “condemns unwanted and unnecessary medical procedures without the full, informed consent of individuals,” and “recognizes that everyone deserves to control their own reproductive choices and make informed choices about their bodies.” Additionally, the resolution further states that “accountability, oversight and transparency is necessary to protect people in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” With 225 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, today’s House passage moves this important resolution one step closer to accountability, oversight, and transparency on this devastating issue.
According to a new report from the New York Times, “concerns from women detained at Irwin emerged long before Ms. Wooten came forward.” Action cannot wait. SisterSong, Project South, Planned Parenthood Southeast, and other leading reproductive justice and immigrant rights organizations have announced specific demands of state and federal politicians and health care regulators to address the reports, which continued to go unanswered.
The report from Ms. Wooten, who is being represented by lawyers from Project South, is not isolated, but part of a long history of forced sterilization and state violence that targets Black and Latino people. This latest assault is one more example of the horrific abuse, medical neglect, and human rights violations that immigrant detainees have faced under this administration.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Forced sterilization is a tool of white supremacy used to control and dehumanize Black, Latino, AAPI, and Indigenous people – and we know that there is no reproductive freedom without justice for immigrants. These horrifying reports are a reminder that the threats to bodily autonomy, particularly for people of color, have been widespread and too often ignored. This is sadly nothing new. Planned Parenthood is proud to stand with SisterSong, Project South, Dawn Wooten, and the reproductive and immigrant justice leaders on the ground who are leading this movement for change. We’re honored to follow the lead of our partners in this fight and work with them in support of the accountability they are seeking from state and federal agencies.”
Statement from Monica Simpson, executive director, SisterSong:
“Recent reports of forced hysterectomies on ICE detainees at the Irwin Detention Center, privately owned and operated by LaSalle Corrections, have sent shockwaves that have been felt so deeply in Georgia and beyond. As Reproductive Justice leaders and advocates committed to securing our human right to bodily autonomy, we are horrified and angry. This brazen attack on incarcerated Black and Brown bodies is part of a long history of policies and programs inflicting violence and harm on migrants and immigrants seeking refuge, safety and opportunity in this country. Forced gynecological procedures and the calculated sterilization of those incarcerated by ICE are yet another attempt to control who has children and who can make decisions about their reproduction. We know and have always known what we need and are committed to defending our bodies, our families and our human rights.”
Statement from Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director, Project South:
“We have documented conditions at Irwin for many years. The treatment of immigrants at this prison has always been horrid. These new shocking revelations further highlight the extent of the egregious abuses at the facility. The fact that Black and Brown immigrant women are held in an extremely vulnerable position at this prison where they have no control over their bodies and no say about what is done to them is sickening. Irwin should be shut down immediately and people should be freed. The United States Government, as well as the private prison corporation running this prison, should be held accountable.”
Statement from Dr. Georgina Amaral, Physician at Planned Parenthood Southeast
“As a reproductive health care provider, I was sickened to hear about the inhumane treatment of the detainees at Irwin. It is our job as physicians to respect the dignity and humanity of every patient — no matter who they are or where they came from. Bodily autonomy doesn’t end at the gates of a detention center. Coercing or forcing patients to undergo medical procedures goes against the hippocratic oath and everything we have committed our lives to as physicians. It is unconscionable to think that a doctor would perform hysterectomies without consent. It is unethical, if not outright criminal, and this physician must be held accountable. We demand the Georgia Medical Board to investigate this doctor and anyone else involved, and revoke their licenses. We also demand that the Department of Homeland Security take action to close down the Irwin County Detention Center and its operator, LaSalle Southwest Corrections. I also urge my fellow medical professionals to stand up and speak out against this atrocity boldly and without hesitation.”
You can listen to audio from a September 17, 2020 press call HERE.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.