26 Hastings Women's L.J. 7 (2015)
If They Hand You a Paper, You Sign It: A Call to End the Sterilization of Women in Prison

handle is hein.journals/haswo26 and id is 21 raw text is: 










If They Hand You a Paper, You Sign It: A Call to

                End the Sterilization of Women in Prison



                             Rachel Roth and Sara L. Ainsworth*



                             INTRODUCTION

     There is no autonomy [in prison]. Your body is in effect 'property
                                  of state.'

                                - Misty Rojo

    In the summer of 2013, amidst news reports of sterilizations of women
in the California prison system, Misty Rojo testified about the problems
inherent with sterilizing people in prison. As an advocate for incarcerated
people who had spent years in a California prison herself, Rojo explained
to the Legislature, You can receive disciplinary action for getting a haircut
too short ... so the idea that you could make such a long-term permanent
decision in that type of environment is ludicrous.'
    More than 100 women incarcerated in California were sterilized by
tubal ligation surgery between 2006 and 2010.2 These procedures did not


    *Rachel Roth, Ph.D., is an independent scholar and consultant who works at the
intersection of reproductive justice and the politics of imprisonment; she is the author of
MAKING WOMEN PAY: THE HIDDEN COSTS OF FETAL RIGHTS (2000). Sara Ainsworth, J.D.,
is the Director of Legal Advocacy at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and has
worked and taught in the field of women's rights, including the rights of incarcerated
pregnant women to be free of shackles during late pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. We
are grateful to Beth Colgan, Marlene Gerber Fried, Courtney Hooks, Karen Shain, Nora
Wilson, Seattle University School of Law librarian Stephanie Wilson, and Justice Now for
their assistance and insight. We are also grateful for the helpful feedback from audiences at
the American Public Health Association and the University of Oregon School of Law. Most
importantly, we would like to acknowledge the power and resistance of currently and
formerly incarcerated people, people like Misty Rojo, whose succinct descriptions of prison
life are the source of this article's title.
   1. California Department of  Corrections and Rehabilitation: Female Inmate
Sterilization: Informal Hearing Before the Cal. S. Pub. Safety Comm. (Aug. 13, 2013)
(testimony of Misty Rojo)., available at http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?
viewid=7&clip-id=1546.
   2. After revisiting the billing data and eliminating duplications, the Center for
Investigative Reporting puts the number at 132 (based on calendar years). See Corey G.
Johnson, Bill Seeks New Restrictions on Sterilizations, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING,


HASTINGS WOMEN'S LAW JOURNAL

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