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Jayapal on New Details Regarding Forced Unnecessary Medical Procedures Performed on At Least 17 Immigrant Women

Jayapal Statement on New Details Regarding Forced Unnecessary Medical Procedures—Including Hysterectomies—Being Performed on At Least 17 Immigrant Women in Irwin County, Georgia

SEATTLE — United States Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) issued the following statement this morning about new details she has learned regarding forced unnecessary medical procedures—including hysterectomies—being performed on at least 17 immigrant women in Irwin County, Ga.:

“Late yesterday, I was briefed by three attorneys representing women who were detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga. and subjected to forced, invasive procedures by a gynecologist connected with the private, for-profit detention center. It has become painfully clear to me that the initial reports brought to light on Monday by whistleblower Dawn Wooten and Project South are likely part of a pattern of conduct. 

“Since the initial story broke, I understand that there are at least five independent attorneys representing women who have found themselves to be part of this horrific pattern, subjected to unnecessary forced sterilization or medical procedures over the last several years. It appears that there may be at minimum 17 to 18 women who were subjected to unnecessary medical gynecological procedures from just this one doctor, often without appropriate consent or knowledge, and with the clear intention of sterilization. Because the majority of immigrants are pro se (unrepresented), it is also possible that there are additional similar cases for individuals who have already been deported or did not have legal representation.

“My conversations with attorneys were stunning and represent the most abhorrent of human rights violations. One woman, Pauline, who was nearly deported this morning, consulted the doctor simply about her menstrual cycle. She was put under for what she was told would be a simple procedure, only to wake up and find that the doctor had removed part of her reproductive organs without her knowledge or consent. Another woman, already deported, apparently went in to see the doctor for a simple condition related to diabetes and ended up having gynecological surgery. Two additional women apparently were shackled to the bed, reported to have had surgical procedures, including one apparent hysterectomy, without any consent. 

“I am horrified and outraged to hear these stories, which contain may consistencies and raise serious questions about not only this particular doctor but about the entire detention system—largely for-profit—that is complicit in the abuses of rights and has long run roughshod over and ignored neglected the health, wellbeing and human rights of immigrants. 

“Earlier today, I led 172 of my House colleagues in calling for an immediate and full Congressional investigation to get to the bottom of this situation. That requires that Pauline and other women immediately receive a stay of their deportations so that they can participate in this investigation. Similarly, ICE must immediately ensure that any person who may have been subjected to forced medical procedures immediately be assured the ability to remain in the United States so that we can follow all the facts and get to the bottom of these horrific allegations. 

“Additionally, this investigation must go well beyond Irwin County. Medical abuses, including poor obstetric care, in ICE custody have been documented for years. Forced sterilization, particularly of women of color, has a long and sordid history in America. To have it occurring in 2020 is beyond unacceptable. Every woman—and man—should be absolutely outraged and immediately call for justice.  Everyone—regardless of their immigration status, their language, or whether they are incarcerated—deserves to control their own reproductive choices and make informed choices about their bodies.”