SB-1190 Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program

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SB 1190: Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program

Providing redress for survivors of state-sponsored sterilization are matters of health justice, reproductive justice and disability justice. An elevated percentage of those sterilized under the state eugenics laws were women and Latina/os. All were classified as having disabilities and lived in state mental institutions. Some were institutionalized because they were poor or sexually active. Their reproductive capacity was taken away from them without proper consent because they were deemed by the state as “unfit to reproduce.” Up to 25% of those sterilized at the Sonoma State Home were “sent for sterilization only.” These young women were sent by juvenile authorities solely to be sterilized and then released to family or back to juvenile authorities. As we all know, themselves should control every person’s reproductive capacity, not by other individuals, institutions, or the state. All people should be treated with respect and dignity regarding their lives and reproduction, including those who have historically been disenfranchised: women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and poor people. Although monetary compensation cannot adequately address the harm suffered by sterilization survivors, it is a material acknowledgement of this wrong. The bill would ensure the funds and mechanisms to make this happen.

AUTHORSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL CO-SPONSORS

SB 1190 is authored by Senator Nancy Skinner, with principal co-author Assemblywoman Monique Limón and co-author Senator Jim Beall.

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BACKGROUND

Why do we need this bill?

In 1909, California state legislators passed a bill authorizing medical superintendents of state homes and hospitals to sterilize patients they deemed “unfit for reproduction.” California went on to administer the most active eugenic sterilization program in the nation, sterilizing more than 20,000 people (out of 60,000 total in 32 U.S. states). People with disabilities, Latina/os, and poor people were most targeted and harmed by eugenic sterilization. The average age of sterilization was 17 years old. This law was not repealed until 1979.

Eugenic sterilization programs are now recognized as a major human rights abuse. In 2003, Governor Gray Davis and the state Senate separately apologized for California’s eugenic sterilization program. Their apologies, however, were not accompanied by any kind of redress. Although monetary compensation cannot adequately address the harm suffered by sterilization survivors, it is a material acknowledgement of this wrong. As many as 631 sterilization victims may still be alive in 2019, when the legislation would go into effect.

KEY ELEMENTS OF BILL
  • Compensate verified survivors of California’s eugenic sterilization program
  • Establish markers or plaques at designated sites acknowledging involuntary sterilization of thousands of people
  • Develop a traveling historical exhibit and other educational opportunities about eugenics laws on the books in California between 1909-1979, as well as the far-reaching impact they had on California residents and, in particular, people with disabilities and members of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups
  • Acknowledge two additional known periods of coerced sterilizations: women of Mexican origin who delivered babies at USC/LA County Hospitals 1965-1975 and female inmates in California state prisons who were sterilized without proper authorization 2006-2010
PRECEDENT

North Carolina (2013) and Virginia (2015) both recently included funds for eugenic sterilization compensation in their budgets to provide some sort of redress to the harm done to survivors by the state. California has the opportunity to take responsibility for this historical harm done to California residents.

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