No Más Bebés is a documentary that is finally shedding light on one of California’s most troubling secrets… forced sterilization.
For decades, California was one of several states that performed forced sterilization. For women, it meant having one’s “tubes tied” after giving birth – usually without their consent. It wasn’t just women, though. Men were also given vasectomies without their knowledge. Hardest hit: Spanish-speaking immigrants.
From 1909 to 1963, 20,000 Californians were subject to forced sterilization. In the ’70s, it continued on a smaller scale.
By the late ’60s, women, particularly immigrant women, were going to the Los Angeles County Hospital to give birth. They were leaving sterilized without their consent.
Many of the women had no idea they were being sterilized until the doctor informed them – AFTER the procedure was done.
Soon, the word got out that California was sterilizing people against their will. The Latino community rallied against the practice and exposed what was seen as legitimate population control. California’s government argued that forced sterilization, sometimes agreed to during labor, was necessary to keep welfare from being exploited and overwhelmed.
The forced sterilizations were exposed in the mid-70s during the height of the Latino civil rights movement.
Some argue that the sterilizations were being used to curb the Mexican American population from growing. California government officials were adamant that the accusations were false. However, some investigations have found that some of the sterilizations were done to rid society of “undesirables.”
The revelation of the forced sterilization prompted a class-action lawsuit (Madrigal v. Quilligan) against L.A. county doctors as well as the state and federal governments.
They lost the lawsuit when it was brought to court, but the result was better informed consent for patients, especially for non-English speakers.