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Forced Sterilization of Women in the United States in the 1970s

Human rights are entitled to all human beings and are not given by any state. Human rights are everyone regardless of race, language, religion, sex, nationality, or other segments. Even though the United States is one of the forefront countries in ensuring that human rights are observed, it also has been noted that they undermine them. The cases of women being forced to sterilize during the early 1970s indicate how the U.S. undermines women’s reproductive rights.

Sterilization is an act that involves blocking the fallopian tubes or completely removing them so that an egg won’t meet the sperms hence blocking fertilization. It should be voluntary or in cases of a doctor’s directive. During the early 1970s, there were complaints and reports linking doctors in Los Angeles district hospital administering tubal ligation, which led to involuntary sterilization, entirely against women’s reproductive rights. Even though tubal ligation was forcefully administered, the surgery wasn’t carried out on everyone but a specific segment. The features of the detail included the following:


Gender refers to the sex class to which an individual belongs. The report confirms that only women who had gone to the hospital to give birth through emergency cesarean sections were tricked and bullied into signing documents authorizing tubal ligation surgery, which led to sterilization. There was no sterilization of the male gender, showing how gender bias existed in the United States in the early 70s.


Only the female gender underwent sterilization; not all women underwent sterilization; instead, only those black American women went through the process. It symbolizes how despised black American women were. Patricia Hill (Black Feminist Thought pp.221-238) encourages us not to look down upon black American women instead look at historical and contemporary knowledge produced by Black women who lived, worked, and struggled under desperate and often contradictory social circumstances. Women from the U.S. who bore many children were not subjected to sterilization. As the government initially claimed, it indicated more to the exercise than just controlling the population.


A class contains a group of people with the same characteristics or economic status. Those people from low-income families were subjected to sterility since they could not have government support if they got another child. The U.S. boasts of spearheading the fight for human rights, but with these considerations, it failed.

Sterilization in the U.S. was done against the victim’s desired will and sometimes without them knowing that the process had been done to them. The doctors in the Los Angeles district hospitals used various means to ensure that these women were sterilized. Some of the methods they employed were as follows:


Regardless of the number of children borne by English speakers women, tubal ligation wasn’t carried out on them; the operation was only carried on black women, especially the immigrants who couldn’t

Forced signing

Most women who went to Los Angeles district hospital to give birth through emergency cesarean were made to sign documents meant to give doctors the right to carry out tubal ligation that led to sterilization. Sterilization was done by giving them documents to sign before giving pain medication. The Mexican women couldn’t persevere but agreed to sign the papers.

Language barrier

Doctors at the Los Angeles district hospital used to take advantage of the Mexican women because they couldn’t read and write in English. It meant that the victims signed documents that they didn’t know what the contents were.

Use of terms like tubal legation

These women were victimized and taken advantage of because they didn’t know the meaning of terms like tubal legation. Not knowing such terms, they got themselves having signed for such operation, which would, in turn, affect their future life and the ability to bore kids.

Women subjected to sterilization were affected so that they couldn’t have children, and at times, the woman’s self-esteem considerably lowered. They aren’t happy, and maybe they would not restore the happiness they initially had.


Even though most black women were affected by forced sterilization, we can’t forget to look at the role they played for their rights to be heard, and what was in darkness was brought to the light. Through organized riots and protests, made the following resolutions:

Newspapers started covering the News

The newspapers started covering all cases or complaints regarding women sterilization. The covering of the News in a Newspaper ensured the reduction rate of forced sterilization and that other organizations like the Human Rights Organization and other world bodies like the United Nations could get involved. A whistleblower complaint was filed claiming thawomen detained in a Georgia immigration facility were undergoing hysterectomies without their knowing consent (Dickerson, Wessler, & Jordan, 2020).

The waiting period of 72 hrs

Initially, women were made to sign forms allowing tubal ligation to be carried to them. Still, with continued protests and riots, according to Espiritu, Lanham, and Rowman on laws, labor, and love, a law was passed that protected them from being approached until 72hrs elapsed from the time of pain.

Language change on forms

Before the continued protests, women could sign documents, not even knowing the contents of the forms, but made this change and law to sign these forms if they were written in a language understood.


Women from low-income families and those not well educated don’t get the reproductive rights entitled to other women. The government and other humanitarian bodies should come together to ensure total reproductive rights are granted. The main aim is to raise enough funds to support such families.

Regardless of occupation, Pregnancy always ends the career of many women (Kitroeff &Silver-Greenberg, 2019), and at times companies sideline women when pregnant deny raises and promotions; all this is happening in the U.S despite all the protests (Kitroeff & Silver –Greenberg, 2019).

Sterilization in California is allowed on incarcerated women using government funds as long as the procedures are followed; research proves that this procedure is not followed. The government should develop organizations that monitor the activities in hospitals to ensure that set rules and regulations are followed.


Women’s reproductive rights should be respected by everyone and every nation. Subjecting them to forced sterilization is against the law. Also, against the religion on gender biasness, anyone found doing this has to face the law. Policymaking organizations should spread correct information to women on sterility and reproductive rights. The relevant authority should spear government involvement in supporting those women from low-income families who continuously get denied their rights. Countries who feel that they are overpopulated and that there is a need to sensitize women on the application of contraceptives and not an application of forced sterilization which is irreversible. There should be an encouragement of institutions that will spearhead interactions amongst genders for a peaceful and respectable co-existence (Wade, Lisa, and Myra Marx Ferree.2019)

Work cited

Wade, Lisa and Myra Marx Ferree.2019.Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, 2nd Edition. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

From Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment(Boston: Unwin Hyman,1990), pp.221-238

Williams, L.Susan.”Doing Culture with Girls Like Me: Why Trying on Gender and Intersectionality Matters. “Sociology Compass 3, no 2(2009):217-33

Espiritu, Yen Le.Asian American Women and Men: Labor, Laws, and Love.Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008

GENDER ROLES (Winter 2022) – Assigned | Top Hat



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