A bill by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to prohibit forced or coerced sterilizations in prisons passed off the Senate floor Tuesday on a unanimous, bipartisan vote and is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration. The vote was 33-0.
Senate Bill 1135 is a response to media reports from the Center for Investigative Reporting last year of unlawful and coercive sterilization of female inmates at the Central California Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison for Women that were occurring as late as 2010.
SB 1135 adds a section to the penal code to prohibit sterilizations in correctional facilities for the purposes of birth control except in cases when a patient’s life is in danger or if it is needed to treat a medical condition and no other less drastic measure is feasible. In addition, a second independent physician must consult with the patient about the effects of the procedure before it is undertaken. Counseling about the permanency of the procedure must be provided as well.
“It’s clear that we need to do more to make sure that forced or coerced sterilizations never again occur in our jails and prisons,” Jackson said. “Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic human rights.”
In 2013, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, of which Jackson is the vice-chair, wrote a letter to California Correctional Health Care Services Federal Receiver Clark Kelso expressing outrage over reports of unlawful sterilization of female inmates. At the request of the leadership of the Women’s Caucus, the state auditor conducted an audit of this issue. A copy of the audit’s findings, released in June, can be found by clicking here.
SB 1135 is coauthored by the current chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, and the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, Senator Loni Hancock and Senator Joel Anderson.
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.