Female Inmates Sterilized Without Consent in California

Kimberly Jeffrey with her son Noel (Noah Berger/Center for Investigative Reporting)
Kimberly Jeffrey with her son Noel (Noah Berger/Center for Investigative Reporting)

From 2006 to 2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 women without getting the proper state approval, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. The procedure, known as a tubal ligation, was performed by doctors under contract with the CDCR. The doctors were given state funds to perform the procedure, which costs $147,460.


California has deemed the practice of forced sterilization on inmates (as well as the mentally ill and poor) illegal since 1979. It is also illegal for prisons to use federal funds to cover the cost of the operation. Instead, state funds are used after being approved by medicial officials in Sacramento, but according to the CIR, whose findings were published in the Sacramento Bee, no tubal ligation requests have come in. Instead, doctors have been carrying out the procedures on their own, seeking approval from the women themselves, at times while the women are in labor.

Kimberly Jeffrey says she was pressured by a doctor while sedated and strapped to a surgical table for a C-section in 2010, during a stint at Valley State. She had failed a drug test while out on parole for a previous series of thefts.

Jeffrey, 43, was horrified, she said, and resisted.

"He said, 'So we're going to be doing this tubal ligation, right?' " Jeffrey said. "I'm like, 'Tubal ligation? What are you talking about? I don't want any procedure. I just want to have my baby.' I went into a straight panic."

Jeffrey provided copies of her official prison and hospital medical files to CIR. Those records show Jeffrey rejected a tubal ligation offer during a December 2009 prenatal checkup at Heinrich's office. A medical report from Jeffrey's C-section a month later noted that she again refused a tubal ligation request made after she arrived at Madera Community Hospital.

At no time did anyone explain to her any medical justifications for tubal ligation, Jeffrey said.

That experience still haunts Jeffrey, who lives in San Francisco with her 3-year-old son, Noel. She speaks to groups seeking to improve conditions for female prisoners and has lobbied legislators in Sacramento.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee

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Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at VerySmartBrothas.com and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.