Reproductive Justice Advocates: Don’t Roll Back Sterilization Consent Rules
Abusive sterilization practices became another type of intrusion. Some sterilizations occurred without women’s knowledge or consent while they were under anesthesia or during labor. Providers misinformed some women about the permanent nature of sterilization or failed to counsel them about other reversible methods of contraception. If immigrant and low-income women did not consent to sterilization, some authorities threatened them with deportation or the withholding of public benefits or health treatment.
More reports allege that from 2006 to 2010, prison officials and providers authorized sterilizations of incarcerated women in California without their prior knowledge and consent. Many of these women were women of color. In 2010, Latinas and Black women made up 59 percent of California’s prison population. This indicates that incarcerated women of color may still experience the denial of their own bodily autonomy when receiving state-provided health care.
Women of color advocates and their supporters fought to end the practice of unconsented sterilizations in the 1970s. One important result occurred in 1979. It was the creation of a Medicaid regulation establishing a minimum 30-day waiting period to get individuals’ written informed consent prior to sterilization.
The Medicaid sterilization consent requirement remains in effect today. A few researchers and health providers have questioned the continued need for the regulation’s 30-day waiting period. Their concerns include the regulation’s barrier to timely post-partum tubal ligations; the consent form, which does not reflect the needs of low literacy and limited English proficient readers; and the logistical barriers the waiting period presents for health providers.