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Jackson Introduces Bill to Halt Forced Sterilizations in Prisons

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has just introduced a bill that prohibits forced or coerced sterilizations in prisons.

Senate Bill 1135 is in response to media reports last year of unlawful and coercive sterilization of female inmates at the Central California Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison for Women that were occurring as late as 2010.

“It’s clear that the law wasn’t strong enough, and as a result, we need to make sure that the unconscionable act of forced or coerced sterilizations never occur in our prisons again,” said Jackson. “Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic human rights.”

SB 1135 adds a section to the penal code to prohibit sterilization in correctional facilities for the purposes of birth control except in cases when a patient’s life is in danger or if it is needed to treat a medical condition and no other less drastic measure is feasible. In addition, a second independent physician must consult with the patient about the effects of the procedure. Counseling about the permanency of the procedure must be provided as well.

In July of 2013, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, of which Jackson is the vice-chair, wrote a letter to California Correctional Health Care Services Federal Receiver Clark Kelso expressing outrage over recent reports of unlawful sterilization of female inmates. At the request of the leadership of the Women’s Caucus, the state auditor is currently conducting an audit of this issue. The audit is expected to be completed this Spring.

SB 1135 is coauthored by the chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, and the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, Senator Loni Hancock and Senator Joel Anderson. The bill will likely be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee in the Spring.

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