The Investigation

By: Hayley Walton

The issue soon gained national attention and the increasing number of forced sterilization allegations led Senator James Abourzek from South Dakota to call upon the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a thorough investigation of the accusations against the HIS (Forced Sterilizations).   The investigation itself was somewhat controversial because the GAO only investigated four of the twelve areas of the program that conducted the sterilization procedures.  In doing so they found that the IHS had performed 3,406 sterilization procedures from 1973-1976 but this number did not include any procedures done in one of the four areas that was investigated due to the fact that the procedures in that region were performed by contract physicians and not physicians of IHS (Forced). Obviously this exclusion caused the number reported to be fairly low, compared to what it should have been.   The GAO investigation also failed to interview any of the Native American women who were sterilized because they felt that it would not be a productive effort (Lawrence).  Ultimately the investigation concluded that the IHS had committed an alarming number of violations, including over thirty sterilization procedures done on under-age girls.   Despite the violations, the investigation reported that they were due to the fact that some IHS physicians were not aware or did not understand all of the regulations or that the contract physicians were not responsible for following the regulations.  These regulations included providing oral presentation of the consent form for those who could not read and including a statement at the top of the consent form informing the women of their right to withdraw consent (Lawrence). 


Here’s another video that is a little more opinionated on the subject but still gives a lot of good facts and numbers relating to the sterilization of Native American women and the overall treatment of Native Americans in our country:


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