ICE & Forced Hysterectomies

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it is looking into a whistleblower complaint that claimed federal immigration detainees underwent unnecessary gynecological surgeries–including full hysterectomies–without their consent.

Dawn Wooten, the confirmed whistleblower, told Project South that many of the Spanish-speaking female immigrants at the facility did not fully understand what a hysterectomy was or why it was even being performed on them.

One unnamed woman confirmed to Project South that “a lot of women here go through a hysterectomy.” She likened Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia to an “experimental concentration camp,” where doctors “experiment with our bodies.” Additionally, the same woman told Project South she knew of five detainees who had hysterectomies between October and December 2019. They all “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done,” she said. Many of them, she added, saw a gynecologist outside the facility for the procedure after complaining of heavy menstrual cycles. 

The complaint also alleges several health and safety violations related to the medical procedures. In one particular case, Wooten states that a woman was not properly anesthetized and heard a doctor telling a nurse that he accidentally removed the wrong ovary.

Dawn Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years. There is a horrendous disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care, and unsanitary living conditions. These women are being deprived of their humanity and basic reproductive rights.

The acts committed against these immigrant women remind me of Dr. James Marion Simms and the atrocious and gruesome experiments he performed on enslaved Black women without anesthesia. Critics say Sims cared more about the experiments than in providing therapeutic treatment, and that he caused untold suffering by operating under the racist notion that Black people did not feel pain. It seems as though history is repeating itself.

Neglect of women’s reproductive health contributes to a perpetual state of gender inequality and an overwhelming discrimination against women, especially women of color. Reproductive rights should be determined by women—it is the science of women, the bodies of women, and the lives of women. The forced hysterectomies of immigrant women violate a woman’s basic human rights.

Even pro-life supporters should be enraged by this, but where are they now? Silent. And why you may ask? Because this matter affects immigrant women of color–not white women.

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