'Forced Hysterectomies? Well We Never,' Says ICE, As They Try To Deport The Women Before They Can Testify
Earlier this week, whistleblower Dawn Wooten came forward to claim that ICE detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia were subjected to forced hysterectomies. Immediately, Dr. Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, swore to high heaven that no such thing ever happened, claiming that since 2018 there had only been two hysterectomies "referred" from that facility and that they were done with the consent of the patients, because they would just never do something like that without consent.
Yesterday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state said she had become aware of at least 17 women who had been "subjected to unnecessary medical gynecological procedures" from just one doctor — and that ICE had attempted to deport one of these women that very morning.
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.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed to the Wall Street Journal last night that they have, in fact, opened an investigation into these claims:
The Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog has opened an investigation into a whistleblower's allegations of coerced hysterectomies being performed on migrant women held at a Georgia detention facility.
The DHS confirmed the probe in a statement Wednesday after pressure from Congress and immigrant advocates mounted.
The United States does not have a great history when it comes to performing medical procedures or experiments on people against their will. Our government spent decades just straight up irradiating people — irradiating the testicles of prisoners, feeding developmentally disabled children radioactive oatmeal, giving poor pregnant women radioactive iron pills. Just a few miles from where I grew up, 22 people went to the doctor for a sore throat or whatever and ended up getting injected with plutonium or unranium or polonium and tracked by the Atomic Energy Commission for the rest of their lives.
Then, of course, there was the time the CIA got really into trying to figure out how to do mind control and started loading people up with drugs.
We also don't have a great track record as it concerns sterilizing people against their will. In 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in Buck v. Bell that the state could forcibly sterilize people deemed unfit to procreate, which led to more than 70,000 people — mostly women, mostly non-white women — being forcibly sterilized during the 20th century.
So it's not really the kind of thing anyone should put past our government.
It only took a few days for this many women to come forward — and this is not exactly the kind of thing it is particularly easy to lie about. Either they have a uterus or they don't. Sure, I suppose that there could be more than 17 women at this particular ICE detention facility who previously had voluntary hysterectomies and decided to lie and pretend they had them there within one day of this news breaking, but statistically that just seems very unlikely.
ICE's medical director Rivera should be very concerned. So should all of us.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse