A recent investigation has found that at least 148 women were sterilized in a manner that did not follow state law. In some cases, the women were pressured to be sterilized.
If true, this will likely spark numerous lawsuits and cost the taxpayers of California millions of dollars.
Prison doctors sterilized the female inmates, via tubal litigations, between 2006 through 2010 without ever getting official approval from the state, notes the Center for Investigative Reporting.
According to California law, since 1994, sterilization requires the signature of a medical official from the state capital. The Center for Investigative Reporting could not find any records for this approval.
Dr. Ricki Barnett, the physician who tracks medical services and costs for the California Prison Health Care Receivership Corp, told the Center for Investigative Reporting that the health care committee overseeing these surgeries did not see a single request from the prisons.
However, the records do show that the physicians, who were contracted by California prisons, earned $147,460 to perform the surgeries between 1997 and 2010.
Dr. Daun Martin, the top medical manager in charge of the Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, California from 2005 through 2008, said she never authorized a single tubal litigation during her tenure at the penitentiary.
The state contracts show that 60 sterilization procedures were done that time span at the Valley State Prison and at the California Institution for Women in Corona.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, Martin said that she and Dr. James Heinrich often classified the sterilizations as a “medical emergency.” Martin and Heinrich believed that the restrictions that kept female inmates from getting tubal litigation were unfair, and that finding a way around was at the best interest of the inmates.
"I'm sure that on a couple of occasions, [Dr. Heinrich] brought an issue to me saying, 'Mary Smith is having a medical emergency' kind of thing, ‘and we ought to have a tubal ligation. She's got six kids. Can we do it?'" said Martin. "And I said, 'Well, if you document it as a medical emergency, perhaps.'"
However, Christina Cordero, a 34-year-old former inmate at the Valley State Prison, told the Center for Investigative Reporting that a doctor pressured her several times to have her tubes tied.
"As soon as he found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done. The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it," said Cordero. "He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn't do it."
Other witnesses say the prison seemed to single out women who have experienced multiple pregnancies and pressured them to get the surgery.