** California Passes Landmark Law to Provide Reparations to Survivors of State-Sponsored Forced Sterilization
Becomes the third state in the nation to compensate survivors of eugenics sterilization and the first to compensate
survivors of prison sterilization
Sacramento, California — On June 12, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom approved a $7.5 million budget request to provide reparations to survivors of state-sponsored forced or involuntary sterilization in California institutions between 1909-1979 and survivors of involuntary sterilizations in women's state prisons after 1979.
This makes California the third state in the nation to provide monetary compensation to survivors who were sterilized under state eugenics laws and the first state to provide reparations to survivors who were sterilized while incarcerated in California's women's prisons.
Background: Between 1909 and 1979, Californiasterilized at least 20,000 people under State law — accounting for one third of eugenics sterilizations nationwide. People with disabilities, Latinas, women, and poor people were disproportionately targeted for sterilization. Although the State repealed its eugenics law in 1979, its reproductive violence continued in State prisons into the 2010's. Most recently, sterilization, a legacy of ongoing eugenics practices in the United States was being used against immigrant women in detention centers in Georgia, making it clear that forced and involuntary sterilizations have never stopped in the U.S., nor in California.
Between 2006 and 2010, a California state audit (https://dredf.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d8372142072c8ce7f2e90e349&id=c97dec886f&e=67da078fd8) revealed at least 144 women were illegally sterilized while in California's custody. Sixty-five percent described themselves as Black, Hispanic, Mexican, or other. Additionally, according to state documents and interviews, there are at least 100 more women who were forcibly sterilized dating back to the late 1990s. To this day, many survivors still do not even know that their reproductive capacity was stolen from them.
Black, Indigenous, Latinx, incarcerated people, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty have been disproportionately targeted for eugenic sterilization. Passage of this budget request is an important step in confronting the shameful legacy of eugenics in California and a necessary rebuke to the racist, sexist, and ableist practices that perpetuate health inequities to this day.
"After 4 years of advocating for reparations, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is heartened that California has taken a necessary first step towards ending its legacy of eugenics," said Carly A. Myers, DREDF Staff Attorney. "While no amount of money can bring justice to survivors, we are thankful California has taken responsibility for past abuses, and hopeful this marks a turning point in its treatment of people with disabilities and others who have been targeted for reproductive oppression."
"The legacy of California's eugenics laws is well-known and their repercussions continue to be felt," said Laura Jimenez, Executive Director, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. "As reproductive justice advocates, we recognize the continued impact these state-sponsored policies have had on the dignity and rights of poor women of color who have been stripped of their ability to form the families they want."
"The California Coalition for Women Prisoners hails this groundbreaking reparations program for incarcerated women and trans people who suffered involuntary sterilization while in California prisons," said Aminah Elster, CCWP's Campaign and Policy Coordinator. "We hope this victory paves the way for other BIPOC communities to achieve additional forms of reparations in response to centuries of state sanctioned violence and abuse."
"To this day, many survivors who were sterilized while in prison still don't know that their reproductive capacities were stolen from them. With the launch of reparations, we will finally receive justice that we have fought so long for, and the healing process can truly begin," said Kelli Dillon, Founder of Back to the Basics and sterilization survivor. "It's time."
"The Sterilization and Social Justice Lab is gratified that this bill will provide long-awaited compensation to survivors of involuntary sterilization in California, and will continue to inform this process and to highlight links between past and present experiences of reproductive injustice," said Dr. Alexandra Minna Stern and Dr. Nicole Novak.