FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2021
Contact: Kelly Novak, [email protected]
Amina Elster, CCWP, [email protected] 

NIRH and CCWP praise inclusion of reparations in California state budget

The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) congratulates partner organization California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) and other key coalition organizations for their work with champions in California’s state legislature to ensure the approval of $7.5 million in California’s state budget, signed by Governor Newsom today, for reparations to the hundreds of survivors of state-sponsored forced sterilization.

This budget allocation is of national significance: California is now only the third state in the nation to provide monetary compensation to survivors who were sterilized under state eugenics laws and the first state to both provide notification of coerced sterilization and reparations to survivors who were sterilized while incarcerated in its state women’s prisons. Black, Indigenous, Latinx, incarcerated people, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty have been disproportionately targeted for sterilizations.

Originally authored as the Forced Sterilization Compensation Program Bill by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and co-sponsored by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ),  the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and Back to the Basics, the language of the bill was added to the state budget and signed by Governor Newsom today. The compensation will be distributed to survivors of California state-sponsored sterilization between 1909 and 1979 and survivors of involuntary sterilizations in women’s state prisons after 1979.

“As this country continues to reckon with past and current racial injustice and white supremacy, we must face our very dark, disturbing history of forced sterilization head on, and take responsibility, step by step,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “NIRH is proud to support shifting the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement towards a recognition and reckoning of the eugenics impacts of imprisonment on generations of Black and Brown women in prisons and detention centers.

“Budgets are moral documents, and elected representatives at all levels of government can and should use every lever of power they have to take responsibility for the deep harms committed by the state,” Miller continued. “We are proud to partner with CCWP to work towards this solemn and important first step towards accountability.”

“The California Coalition for Women Prisoners hails this groundbreaking reparations program for incarcerated women and trans people who suffered involuntary sterilization while in California prisons. We hope this victory paves the way for other BIPOC communities to achieve additional forms of reparations in response to centuries of state sanctioned violence and abuse,” said Aminah Elster, CCWP’s Campaign and Policy Coordinator.

Between 2006 and 2010, a California state audit revealed that at least 144 people, the majority of whom identify as Black and Latinx, were illegally sterilized during labor and delivery while in custody in women’s prisons. Coerced sterilization of people in women’s prisons is the subject of the New York Times critic’s pick feature-length documentary, Belly of the Beast. The filmmakers uncovered nearly 1,400 questionable sterilizations during labor or unrelated abdominal surgeries between 1997 – 2013, and the film helped garner nearly 20,000 signatures on a petition to Governor Newsom demanding reparations for California forced sterilization survivors.

Sterilization survivor, film participant, and founder of Back to the Basics Kelli Dillon said, “To this day, many survivors who were sterilized while in prison still don’t know that their reproductive capacities were stolen from them. With the launch of reparations, we will finally receive justice that we have fought so long for and the healing process can truly begin. It’s time.”

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The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) is an advocacy group that fights to protect and advance just and equitable access to reproductive health care. Working hand-in-hand with reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in states and cities across the country, NIRH builds coalitions, launch campaigns, change policy, and elect candidates who stand up for everyone’s right to control their reproductive lives. Our strategy is to go on the offensive to pass laws that safeguard reproductive freedom. We work in the communities where change is needed, so the fabric of reproductive freedom becomes harder to tear apart.

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) is a grassroots abolitionist organization—with members inside and outside prison—that challenges the institutional violence imposed on women, transgender people, and communities of color by the prison industrial complex (PIC). We see the struggle for racial and gender justice as central to dismantling the PIC and we prioritize the leadership of the people, families, and communities most impacted in building this movement.