The Sterilizations

By: Kelsey Duke

In 1974 a study done by the Women of All Red Nations (WARN) organization reported that possibly up to 42% of American Indian women had been sterilized without their consent (Forced Sterilization).   Although many studies argue that this number is extremely exaggerated, it drew more attention to the issue and many more women came forward and told their stories.  Some women said they were asked to sign the consent form for the procedure while they were actually in the delivery room, giving birth to unknowingly what would be their last child.  Women who were in child labor frequently reported that they were in tremendous amounts of pain and some even claimed that they were told that they were signing a consent form for painkillers, others had no idea what they were signing (Lawrence).  In cases where the women did know what they were signing, many said that they either did not know that the procedure was permanent, or that they were falsely informed that if they did not agree to the procedure they would lose all benefits provided to them by the government or even custody of their children (Genocide).   Another large factor contributing to the lack of consent stemmed from the fact that many of the women could not fluently speak English and therefore could not understand the written consent forms or the verbal explanations (Raslin-Lewis). One report even stated that two fifteen year old girls were told they were having their tonsils removed when the sterilization procedure was done on them (Forced).  Regardless of the exact circumstance, it is evident that many of the women were taken advantage of in the way that they were asked to sign any consent forms. 

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