ICE Hysterectomies Come as No Surprise


ICE has been known to be a department rife with human rights complaints. Photo credit: Allen J. Schaber

Andreas Loretan, Opinion Editor

 Multiple women have now stepped forward to claim that ICE medical officials at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia have operated on their reproductive systems without their consent. As of yet, the Office of the Inspector General has not concluded its investigation into the alleged forced hysterectomies executed. Spokespeople at the Georgia prison in question, along with ICE’s top brass, have feigned concern at the revelation, but quickly encouraged the public to remain “skeptical” about anonymous allegations. While these allegations are officially considered unsubstantiated, we have plenty of reason to believe these women based on mountains of atrocity and horror the United States has committed in its very short history.

It comes as no surprise that the ICE camps, private or not, turn out to be a much worse place than originally thought. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that people held in the immigrant detention centers are not given the right to a public defender like others convicted of a crime in the U.S. Even in short-term detentions, the ACLU finds, immigrants who are detained are not typically given basic needs like food, water, or even toothbrushes. Multiple reports of the camps, including those from Amnesty International and the New York Times, have illustrated abuses of human rights of all stripes.

First, it was the photos of the cramped, fenced-off quarters. Then, it was photos of children sleeping on concrete with foil blankets. Now, it’s horrific medical experimentation bordering on eugenics. 

The United States’ many shames have a habit of gradually revealing themselves to be much worse than they are originally reported to be. The heinousness of both the Vietnam War’s My Lai massacre of 1968 and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal did not come to light until a year after their respective original reporting.

It should also be highlighted that these hysterectomies were happening in the confines of a privately-owned facility. The bizarre and inhumane relationship between America’s carceral system and private enterprise has revealed itself to be troublesome in the past. In studies cited by the Sentencing Project, assaults are twice as likely to occur in private prisons than they are in public prisons. The expansion of privatization in the realm of immigration detention occurred even under the Obama administration and has been taken extra advantage of under Trump. 

Due to a lack of government oversight, human rights abuses are often ignored in private establishments; privatization facilitates this level of disregard for humanity.

It should really come as no surprise that our government is sanctioning sterilizations on minority women. In Puerto Rico, during the 1940s and 1950s, there was an official U.S. government program of coerced sterilization among the female population. The reasoning for this program included an attempt at curbing widespread poverty on the island (which in turn was affecting private investment into the island) and a perception of sexual promiscuity toward Latina women, leading to higher rates of fertility. In a 1949 survey on the island, 21% of women reported to have been sterilized without their consent. 

This record that America has in this field should not be viewed as frozen in amber. People around for the sterilization in Puerto Rico are still around today, so the ideals that pushed it through are definitely still lingering around in the minds of those who monitor similar institutions.

So, it should come as no surprise, that the United States, under Trump or any other president, is overseeing procedures more sinister than the public would care to know. A history of cruel and unusual punishments of oppressed peoples across the globe by our government could fill libraries, so the next time we hear about a camp, a prison, a war, or a program, it might be best for us to assume the worst. 

With this history in mind, we can safely assume that these allegations against ICE and this private Georgia prison are true. If they aren’t, we have plenty else to be angry about.