Document Type



The context in which the sterilization of incarcerated women takes place is a deeply coercive one. The practice of sterilizing incarcerated women, whether intentionally coerced or not, takes place against a backdrop of mass incarceration and the long and ignominious history of forced and coerced sterilizations directed at poor people and women of color in the United States. Professor Sara Ainsworth and Dr. Rachel Roth explore this backdrop, and the federal sterilization regulations that arose from this history and from women's activism to change it, in Part I. In Part II, they explain how the appallingly bad and often unconstitutional state of medical care in prison forms the context for both indirect and direct forms of sterilization abuse in prison. They describe careless or aggressive medical treatment that results in infertility, present a case study of sterilizations in California, and analyze state prison policies that permit sterilization. Part III explores medical ethics and the lack of guidance from professional medical organizations on this issue. They conclude by addressing claims that access to sterilization is necessary for incarcerated women's reproductive autonomy, and making specific recommendations against the practice of sterilizing women in prison.