CIR reported that inmates were often not given information about the lasting effect of the procedure and the risks associated. In many cases, the women were reportedly pressured after prison medical staff found that they had already several children or where facing multiple prison terms. A Bay Area physician, who performed some of the surgeries, told CIR that he believed the sterilization procedures spent less money than welfare would for unwanted children.
As a result of the report and after the outrage of the legislative Woman’s Caucus, of which Jackson is vice chair, the state auditor conducted an audit on the issue. The conclusions of CIR were validated by the 2014 state auditor’s report.
The audit also found that women receiving tubal ligations were typically between 25 and 40 years old and had been pregnant five or more times before. Most of them also tested at less than a high school level in reading proficiency. Jackson said that pressuring a vulnerable population into permanent reproductive choices violates their most basic human rights.
The legislation includes two exceptions to its prohibition on inmate sterilization. The procedure can be conducted only if the inmate’s life is in danger or to treat a medical condition when no less drastic measure is feasible.
SB1135 includes provisions for counseling about the permanency of the procedure, as well as a requirement for the presence of an independent physician to consult with the patient. If any sterilizations are performed in an institution, prisons would also need to submit an annual report to the Board of State and Community Corrections.
“For most women, it is one of the most important decisions of their lives, whether or not to have children," Jackson said. "And to end that ability while in prison is inherently coercive.”