(Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
Nearly 150 female inmates were sterilized without state approval between 2006 and 2010, according to a new report released by the Center of Investigative Reporting.
The report claims that at least 148 female inmates at the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla received tubal ligations from state doctors over a five year period.
The report also indicates that a further 100 inmates could have been victims of the unauthorized procedures during 1997 and 2006.
The women allegedly were coerced into having the procedure performed, signing up for the surgery while they were pregnant. The women were targeted, the report claims, if officials believed they were at risk of returning to prison.
One former inmate at Valley State Prison, Christina Cordero, has said: "As soon as [the institution's OB-GYN Dr. James Heinrich] found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done. The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it. He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn't do it … Today, I wish I would have never had it done."
However, Valley State OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich, 69, has denied accusations that he pressured any inmates into having the procedure performed.
The physician admitted that he was surprised to learn that contract doctors charged for the procedure, but also said that the $147,460 charged was relatively small compared to the money taxpayers would have to pay for the unwanted children on welfare.
Heinrich said: "Over a 10-year period, that isn't a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more."
But numerous former inmates disagree; Nikki Montano, 42, who was at Valley State in 2008, said: "I figured that's just what happens in prison – that that's the best kind of doctor you're going get. He never told me nothing about nothing."