Cantwell, Murray to Homeland Security IG: Investigate Alleged Forced Hysterectomies at ICE Facility
Senators: “Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy…the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other facilities”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, joined a group of Senate Democratic lawmakers in calling on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general to expeditiously investigate a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), a privately-run ICE facility, in Ocilla, GA, and to review all reproductive health policies at ICE facilities. Following appeals from federal lawmakers, last week DHS announced it had launched a probe to investigate the allegations detailed in the whistleblower’s complaint.
“Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy,” the senators wrote. “To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.”
Senator Cantwell has been a strong advocate for the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, repeatedly pressing for answers about detainee treatment at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, along with Senator Murray. In July 2019, the senators joined their Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation to stop cruel and neglectful treatment of children at the Southern border, and they also cosponsored legislation to prevent family separations. Additionally, Senator Cantwell has pressed Trump administration officials on their treatment of children in hearings. Senator Murray, a longtime champion for reproductive health—as well as comprehensive immigration reform and other efforts to support the fair treatment of refugees and those seeking asylum—forcefully condemned the actions described in the whistleblower’s report, saying in part that the complaint “offers a painful reminder that some of the darkest chapters of our country’s history are still echoing today, and should shock the conscience of every soul in the nation.” In her statement, Senator Murray added that if confirmed, the allegations would “amount to nothing less than human rights abuses under the Trump Administration’s watch.” Senator Murray has consistently stood up to President Trump’s needlessly cruel immigration policies, including earlier this year when she and Senator Cantwell demanded information on the treatment of pregnant women in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody following reports of detained pregnant women being mistreated, denied medical care, and shackled by CBP, which resulted in miscarriages.
Read full text of the letter HERE or below.
September 18, 2020
Dear Mr. Cuffari:
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General should expeditiously conduct a thorough investigation into a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies and other egregious abuses at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia. LaSalle Corrections operates that facility for the federal government, including for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The alleged abuses detailed in the complaint and in related reports must be thoroughly and swiftly investigated to protect the rights and safety of women and patients in our nation’s care.
The whistleblower expressed alarm about the “rate at which the hysterectomies have occurred” at the facility. Specifically, the complaint alleges that between October and December 2019 at least five women detained at the ICDC received hysterectomies. When asked about the procedures, however, the women “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” The complaint also describes how a gynecologist once removed the wrong ovary on a young woman, causing her “to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy,” leaving her unable to bear children.
Another detained woman who received a hysterectomy recounted that medical personnel “did not properly explain to her what procedure she was going to have done.” Although she asked for more information about why she was receiving a hysterectomy, she was “given three different responses by three different individuals.” When the woman told a nurse that the procedure “isn’t for me,” the nurse “responded by getting angry and agitated.
Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy. To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other ICE facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.
In addition to thoroughly investigating the recent alleged abuses at the ICDC, we urge you to immediately conduct a national review of reproductive health policies and practices at ICE facilities to ensure that the human rights of women in federal immigration custody are assured.
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