California Stopped Forcibly Sterilizing People Less Than 40 Years Ago And Now They Might Not Pass A Bill Offering Reparations
California lawmakers are working to pass a bill that could potentially change the lives of the remaining survivors of state-sponsored forced sterilization. The bill, Senate Bill 1190 Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program, would entitle victims of the former sterilization program to monetary compensation for the forced sterilizations they experienced under a California law from 1909 to 1979.
After 40 years since the practice ended, victims of California’s forced sterilization program might get monetary compensation.
Senate Bill 1190 Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program would be “implemented by the California Victim Compensation Board for the purpose of providing victim compensation to any survivor of state-sponsored sterilization conducted pursuant to eugenics laws that existed in the State of California between 1909 and 1979,” according to the bill.
California’s eugenics law allowed for medical professionals to prevent certain people from reproducing if they were believed to be undesirable. According to The Washington Post, the practice of eugenics in the U.S. began in Indiana state prisons and spread to 32 states. The programs began by targeting people with mental illness, disabilities, or anyone showing abnormal behavior. The practice then morphed to include people of certain races and ethnicities. The practice was often referred to as ‘better breeding.’
Doctors sterilized many of the women without their consent or knowledge.
California targeted low-income, immigrant Latinx families that couldn’t speak English in order to manipulate them into signing forms to approve sterilization procedures. When pregnant women arrived at hospitals to give birth via C-Section, the mothers would wake up and find out their tubes had been cut without their consent. The mothers were left feeling ashamed, often hiding what had happened from their family members.
A group of Mexican-American women brought a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County + University of Southern California (LAC + USC) Medical Center in 1975 because of the sterilizations.
In 1975, Dolores Madrigal and her attorney, Antonia Hernandez, took the LAC + USC Medical Center to federal court after Madrigal found out she was forcibly sterilized by doctors. Unfortunately, Madrigal wasn’t the only person to experience forced sterilization. More than 20,000 others had similar stories. Unfortunately, the court ruled that the charges weren’t true and left the women with no justice for what they had endured.
The documentary No Más Bebés chronicles the lives of these women, the case and the women who continued to be be sterilized without consent.
The law changed four years later in 1979 under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown. Gov. Gray Davis formally apologized for the eugenics law that devastated thousands of Californians.
SB 1190 has been placed on a appropriations suspension. According to the California League of Cities, “suspense file is a holding placing for bills with significant fiscal impacts. Bills are generally held on the suspense file before each fiscal deadline so that each House can evaluate the total impacts to the state. Bills which are moved out of suspense then go to the floor while bills held in suspense die.”
California would join other states in rectifying previous eugenics practices if the bill is passed.
North Carolina and Virginia passed similar legislation in 2013, setting aside $10 million and $25,000 for sterilization victims, respectively.
On April 30, 2018 the California bill was placed on the Appropriations Suspense file, or in other words, “where bills go to die.” There may be little chance of it passing this legislative session.