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Whistleblower allegation revives memories of forced sterilization within the US

In late September, licensed practical Nurse Dawn Wooten filed a government whistleblower complaint against a nearby immigrant detainment facility. Her accusation  exposed the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia for purportedly disobeying  health and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Going beyond that, the complaint also alleged that a Dr. Mahendra Amin, a doctor from the detention center referred to in the complaint as the “uterus collector”, had performed several unwanted hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures on a number of immigrant women.  

ICE Officer watches immigrants in a detention center | Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

According to AP News, while some of Dr. Amin’s medical records show concrete reasonings for certain procedures, the rest uncover an immoral pattern. It has been revealed that many of the  female patients  were unable to give informed consent, the process by which a patient gives permission for a healthcare procedure; a necessity for any and all procedures in the modern era.

In one instance, 30-year-old Pauline Binam, a Cameroonian immigrant, was experiencing irregularity in her menstrual cycle. After consulting with medical staff at the center, she was told that she would be receiving a Dilation & Curettage (D&C) procedure,which involves the dilating of the cervix and subsequent scrapping of the uterine lining. After giving verbal consent to this procedure, she was put on  anesthetics to undergo the surgery. Once the operation was completed, Binam was told that one of her fallopian tubes had also been removed during the surgery. The procedure’s  medical records show that Amin found the fallopian tube swollen, but medical experts have raised concerns over how that is even possible, as a standard D&C does not require investigating the fallopian tubes.

 According to an interview done by Vox, Binam “doesn’t know whether she’ll be able to conceive again, or whether it was medically necessary that her fallopian tube be removed.”

The allegations set forth by Nurse Wooten and the other detainees and patients are especially horrifying considering the government’s participation. Throughout U.S. history, the government has  sanctioned forced sterilizations of “undesirable” populations. 

The ideology of eugenics,  or the organization of reproduction in society to breed “desirable” traits, has influenced United States law throughout history, particularly after its official conception following Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Tuskegee Experiment | Photo Courtesy of the National Archives

From Tuskegee to Henrietta Lacks, the United States has used federally sanctioned power to use predominately people of color as experimental subjects rather than people.

Within the early to mid 20th century, 32 states in the US passed forced sterilization laws to target so-called “deleterious genes” like criminality, feeblemindedness, and sexual deviancy. The correlation between these cases and the current situation in Ocilla, Georgia is that the majority of these sterilizations were conducted under coercion or without informed consent.

The Huffington Post reports that during the 20th Century, 60,000 sterilizations were completed in the country, with  ⅓ of them taking place in California likely as a result of the state’s high proportions of immigrants. The targeted groups across the country were immigrants, people of color,  poor citizens, unmarried mothers, disabled individuals, mentally ill people, and those with “abnormal” sexual behavior. 

With help from the Department of Mental Health, which is now the Department of  State Hospitals, California caused the most destruction with its steralizations. Even as recently as 2006-2010, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that 150 female inmates had been sterilized in California prisons without due cause.

Of course these laws and incidents within the US did not go unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Photo Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society

Hitler once infamously wrote, “There is today one state, in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of citizenship] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.” 

If the allegations concerning Dr. Amin are proven true, the circumstances correlate to a hideous trend showcased throughout American history, and it is imperative that the public remains vigilant.

About Colin O'Malley

Colin O'Malley
Colin O'Malley is a senior at Mt. Carmel and one of the Co-Editors on Journalism this year. He will also be overseeing much of the Entertainment section.

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One comment

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    Prisha Puntambekar

    This is honestly horrific, but it’s so important to be aware of such current events. Well-written!

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