NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina joined 21 of our partner organizations to send a letter to the North Carolina Congressional delegation demanding they take action to investigate the allegations of forced sterilizations of detainees held at U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in Georgia. In addition to the investigation, we ask that Congress act quickly to end the human rights abuses that continue to occur at ICE facilities across the country.
Whether it is controlling people’s access to abortion, contraception, or the ability to safely bear and raise children, reproductive oppression – including forced or coerced sterilizations – is a violation of the right to bodily autonomy, and has been part of our society for too long. We cannot achieve reproductive freedom for all unless we commit to protecting the right for all of us to plan, grow and structure our families as we desire and believe is best for us.
We are writing to express our deep concern over last week’s reports of hysterectomies being performed on detained immigrant women at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) without their full, informed consent. These allegations, first compiled in a letter to DHS from Project South, include numerous reports of immigrant women undergoing unnecessary hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures that altered their ability to have children, and further information that these procedures were carried out without each patient’s full understanding and consent. We know that immigrant women from North Carolina are sent to ICDC on a regular basis, so these allegations hit particularly close to home.
As an immediate first step, we ask that you call for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to open an investigation to examine all aspects of the allegations raised by whistleblower Dawn Wooten and immigrants currently and formerly detained in the ICDC. We further ask that you support halting the deportations of all potential victims and witnesses as these allegations are investigated, so that we can fully understand and address what is happening. Finally, and more broadly, we ask that you work to curb the never ending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) abuses that have only escalated in recent years. In our view, the only way to do that effectively is to dismantle ICE as it is currently constructed.
As North Carolinians, we are unfortunately all too aware of the dark and painful stain of atrocities similar to those reported at ICDC, and we know that these wrongs must be corrected with intentionality and urgency. The similarities between these reports and state-sanctioned eugenics practices in our collective recent past are striking and disturbing. Over forty-five years, North Carolina’s eugenics program sterilized over 7,600 people—85% of them women, and the majority of them Black. Out of the more than thirty states that officially sanctioned eugenics programs in the last century, North Carolina ranked third overall in the number of people sterilized, and our state’s program was maintained and even expanded well after many other states had abandoned the practice. In our state, trying to make amends for these horrific acts took time and the slow accumulation of political will. The state didn’t officially apologize for the acts until 2002, and didn’t achieve compensation for victims until 2014, unfortunately after many victims of the state’s eugenics program had died. At that time, House Representative Skip Stam noted that compensation was the least the state could do to acknowledge that through its eugenics program “…the State irrevocably changed lives by abusing its power in an effort to eliminate a class of people.”
Please do everything you can to ensure that this time, with our recent history as our guide, we show that we have the political will and ability to address these allegations and end these horrific practices without delay.
 See Rep. Skip Stam and Amy O’Neal, Eugenics in North Carolina, http://paulstam.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Eugenics-in-North-Carolina_Final.pdf (Aug. 2014).
Chantal N. Stevens
ACLU of North Carolina
Advocacy House Services, Inc.
Carolina Migrant Network
Rabbi Salem Pearce
Carolina Jews for Justice
Director of Programs
Attorney Dawn Blagrove
FaithAction International House
Hispanic Liaison of Chatham County
NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina
Reproductive Health Access Project, NC Chapter
North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT)
North Carolina Council of Churches
Director, Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project
North Carolina Justice Center
Elizabeth C. Day
Harm Reduction/Hepatitis C Educator
NC Survivors’ Union
NC Women United
Director of Public Affairs
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic
SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective
Triangle Harm Reduction and Outreach