The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Forced Sterilizations in California

Aug 2, 2021

The new California budget signed by Governor Gavin Newsom has allocated 7.5 million dollars to pay reparations to survivors of forced sterilizations that state authorities have carried out for many decades. Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, who introduced the bill that led to the reparation program, said that “there is a level of dignity that is bestowed on the survivors by the acknowledgment that this happened.”

Well, no. Not when only a few hundred victims, out of more than 20,000, are still alive. And the money California is offering, $25,000 maximum, is actually an insult, considering the amount of pain and trauma caused to the victims who forever lost their ability to have children.

California authorities used a 1909 law, which legalized forced sterilizations, on thousands of people, many of them still in their teens. All along, the perpetrators openly displayed their own racist and sexist views on record. For example, they justified the sterilization of a 14-year-old boy by calling him “high tempered, unreliable, an habitual truant and a bully,” whose parents were “of low-grade Mexican mentality.” The “reason” for sterilizing a 19-year-old woman was that she supposedly was a “mentally deficient, sex delinquent girl” from an “unfit home.”

These sterilizations were an open attack on certain parts of the population, coming from the highest levels of wealth and power. (Members of the Human Betterment Foundation, which pushed for sterilizations, included Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, Stanford University president David Star Jordan, and Stanford psychologist Lewis M. Terman, who developed the IQ test.) It was a systematic way of attacking certain vulnerable parts of the working class, in order to divide and terrorize the whole working class.

The proof is that forced sterilizations in California have never stopped—not after 1979, when the law was finally repealed, nor even after the state’s official “apology” in 2003. Between 2005 and 2014, at least 144 women, mostly Black and Latino, were sterilized in California prisons. And there are still reports about sterilizations of women in immigrant detention facilities, where the women who are being sterilized are lied to about the surgery they are undergoing, and coerced into signing a consent form they don’t understand the wording of.

None of the authorities, who physically harmed these women and lied about it on record, have ever been prosecuted—one more proof that behind this heinous crime is a policy devised at the highest levels of power, by people whose wealth is built on the exploitation of the working class.

Capitalism is their system. It can only exist thanks to violence and terror over the working class—until the working class overthrows the capitalist system and replaces it with a system based on the common interests and solidarity of working people.