When I put up that last post about shameful moments in American science policy, I felt like Science had forgotten one that I personally consider our most lethal mistake…but it’s so deeply ingrained in American culture that maybe it’s taken for granted. It’s always there, and so it’s easy to overlook. I think the greatest science lie ever has to be our history of racism which led to the enslavement and genocide of other human beings that our society judged inferior.
That crime has never gone away, and we’re currently compounding it. An ICE detention center is performing mass hysterectomies on immigrants.
On Monday, a nurse at a private immigration detention center in Georgia came forward about a range of dangerous medical practices at a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. According to her, the center has not only ignored COVID-19 protocols, but is actively performing mass hysterectomies on detained people.
The whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, worked at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) — which is operated by LaSalle Corrections — where she allegedly witnessed the company’s refusal to test detainees for COVID-19 as well as spoke to several people who each had their uterus removed as part of an unwarranted hysterectomy procedure. According to the official complaint lodged with the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, Wooten said that the facility was performing hysterectomies on people who reported having heavy menstrual cycles or other more serious pain, but that “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”
“I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor and they’ve had hysterectomies and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going,” Wooten said in the report. She also noted how ICDC consistently uses one out-of-facility doctor, who is responsible for the hysterectomies in addition to accidentally removing the wrong ovary in one patient. “He’s the uterus collector.”
It’s possible this nurse is a disgruntled employee, and that she’s misinterpreting an excess of zeal in treating sick patients as a pattern of mass sterilization, but isn’t it odd how ICE, which has never been particularly good at managing the health and safety of the inmates in their concentration camps, is suddenly so solicitous and thorough in treating the reproductive health of the prisoners?
It’s also in line with historical practice.
This isn’t the first time the United States has forced people — especially people of color — into unwanted sterilization, which is a human rights violation and a form of eugenics, according to the World Health Organization. For more than 70 years, California led the country in sterilizations; during that time about 20,000 people were sterilized against their will in state institutions. In the South, Black women were treated as “practice” for incoming medical students and had been sterilized unknowingly during C-sections. Other times, they were coerced in order to retain welfare benefits. Sterilization was so wide-spread in North Carolina that a bill was passed in 2015 to give victims financial compensation.
Of course, when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who are regularly referred to as “unwanted” “aliens” by the current president, it’s not so surprising that these practices went unreported for so long. One immigrant in the complaint put it best: “This place is not equipped for humans.”
ICE and Homeland Security were established under George W. Bush after the post-9/11 freakout. Can we stop trying to resuscitate the reputation of that horrible mass-murderer and criminal, and can we start condemning the Republicans who created the fascist Homeland Security Act, every Democrat who voted for it, and all the presidents since who have allowed ICE to continue existing? Shut it down, and fire our version of Dr Mengele, “the uterus collector”.