Complaint Alleges Unwanted Hysterectomies on ICE Detainees

Advocacy groups have filed a complaint against a ICE detention center located in Atlanta, Georgia accusing them of unwanted hysterectomies and more.  The complaint alleges detainees suffered from medical neglect and a lack of virus safety measures.  The women held at Irwin County Detention Center, a private facility, were sent to an off-site gynecologist where unexplained and unwanted hysterectomies were performed on them regularly.

Unwanted Hysterectomies ICE Chicago DefenderThe allegations stem from  whistleblower and nurse, Dawn Wooten.  Dawn Wooten worked at the ICE center.  With help from Project South, the Georgia Detention Watch, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, she filed a complaint.  Wooten raised concerns that a very high number of hysterectomies were performed on Spanish-speaking women at the ICE detention center. So many in fact, that female detainees started referring to the gynecologist as the womb collector.  Even alleging the doctor in question removed the wrong ovary from one young ICE detainee.

Wooten said detained women told her they did not fully understand what was happening or why they had these operations involving removing all or part of the uterus.  In her complaint, she also alleges coronavirus “medical neglect.”  The neglect includes refusing to test detainees with symptoms and fabricating medical records.

Hysterectomies done on ICE detainees is not new.  Similarly, in the mid-1800’s J. Marion Sims, a gynecologist perfected a technique to repair fistulas, the holes between the vagina and the bladder or rectum. In some cases it can lead to incontinence.  He repeatedly conducted painful experimental surgeries on enslaved black women without using anesthesia. In his autobiography, he describes negotiating with slave owners:

“I made this proposition to the owners of the negroes: If you will give me Anarcha and Betsey for experiment, I agree to perform no experiment or operation on either of them to endanger their lives, and will not charge a cent for keeping them, but you must pay their taxes and clothe them.”

He also complains about the expense of feeding them.  “These enslaved women were property,” said Vanessa Northington Gamble, a physician and medical historian at George Washington University.  Therefore, these women could not consent.

ICE has denied accounts of performing hysterectomies on ICE detainees.  In statements, ICE said it was taking the allegations seriously and was “firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody.” However, the Trump administration has made restricting immigration, both legal and illegal, a cornerstone of government policy — even as advocates and numerous detainees say the conditions ICE migrants have been held in is often unsafe and inhumane.

Contributing writer, LaToya Wright is the creator of  Connect with her about lifestyle, beauty, and fashion topics at @fatgirl_fashion

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