LA County Apologizes for Forced Sterilizations

“For hundreds of years, women have been victimized by patriarchal and racist health care policies. The women affected by this practice led the rest of their lives deprived of full reproductive freedom, an incalculable loss to themselves and their families. In taking this action now, we acknowledge the injustice that was done, and commit ourselves to protecting women’s reproductive freedom vigilantly for the future.” — Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl

Between 1968 and 1974, more than 200 women who delivered babies at LA County+USC Medical Center were sterilized. Although the women provided written or oral consent, there is a question as to whether, due to possible language and cultural barriers, the consent was truly informed.

Today the Board of Supervisors voted to redress this painful episode in LA County history. The Board instructed the CEO to prepare a five-signature letter to the County’s state delegation to express support for SB 1190 which would provide victim compensation to any victim of state-sponsored sterilization, and to issue an apology to the women affected, including the installation of a plaque or artwork on the County+USC campus, to express sincere apologies to the women and families harmed by the County’s practices.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion, said, “For hundreds of years, women have been victimized by patriarchal and racist health care policies. The women affected by this practice led the rest of their lives deprived of full reproductive freedom, an incalculable loss to themselves and their families. In taking this action now, we acknowledge the injustice that was done, and commit ourselves to protecting women’s reproductive freedom vigilantly for the future.”

“Forced sterilization of Californian women, mostly Latina women and girls, is one of the most shameful events of our state’s history,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, the only Latina on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. “Thank you to Senator Skinner for authoring SB1190, an important piece of legislation that also shines a light on this painful collective memory. The tremendous physical and emotional harm to these women, their families, and our communities cannot be undone. But we owe them our heartfelt apologies and a visual memorial, a plaque at LAC+USC Medical Center, that will remind current and future generations of this past injustice so that this tragedy will never occur again.”

During the 1968-1974 period, LA County did not have a program of forced sterilizations, but some patients were sterilized at County hospitals without truly informed consent. Many of these women had to live the rest of their lives with decisions that they did not understand having made, and some did not even understand until later that they had been sterilized.

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