Allegations of hysterectomies on immigrant women without knowing consent

By Jon Quinn (TheLorian)

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whistle blower has raised the alarm on non-consensual hysterectomies performed on immigrant women in the US. The nurse, identified as Dawn Wooten, filed a complaint with the advocacy group “Project South,” an institute for the elimination of poverty and genocide. The report alleges ‘jarring medical neglect’ during the coronavirus pandemic, including a refusal to test detainees with symptoms and fabricating medical records.

“I became a whistleblower, now I’m a target,” said Ms. Wooten at a press conference. “I’ll be a target anytime [rather than remaining a part of an inhumane system].”

Since the complaint was made public last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats demanded an investigation into the claims made by Ms. Wooten at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Georgia. According to The Washington Post, the detainees there have been denied of basic medical care and possibly subjected to hysterectomies without their informed consent.

“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are staggering abuse of human rights,” Pelosi said. “The DHS Inspector General must immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint.”

The report did not did not detail any detainees who said they had received a hysterectomy against their will; one woman anonymously quoted in the complaint said that she was scheduled for the procedure without her consent but that it was canceled when she tested positive for covid-19.

Social media raised awareness that the United States has a history of forced sterilization of vulnerable people. This year, some of the victims of North Carolina’s Eugenics Board which forcibly sterilized thousands of its own citizens between 1929 and 1974, mostly black women and girls, were finally told that the state would begin to pay reparations in October.

ICE has faced scrutiny over its handling of the coronavirus at detention centers, with inspector general opening an investigation of the agency’s practices in May. In a statement to the Washington Post about the allegations, the Agency said “In general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

Wooten also made claims about the lack of medical precautions while operating during the covid-19 pandemic, especially among the detainees. The report cites an example of an unknown detainee who requested medical service several times in one week and did not receive any treatment until four weeks later.

“ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees,” the agency said.

But Wooten says there was widespread disregard for protecting staff members and inmates at the Georgia facility. The nurse worked at Irwin for three years and told Intercept that she was demoted in July to an on-call position with few hours as retaliation.

“They’re still not taking this seriously,” Wooten told the Intercept. “Enough was enough.”

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Jonathan Quinn

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Jon is currently a junior who is double-majoring in Media Studies and Public Relations. He is heavily involved at Loras as a campus photographer, residential adviser, and a sports editor for the school newspaper, The Lorian.

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