In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced this resolution in response to reports of unnecessary medical procedures, including hysterectomies, being performed on immigrant women without their consent at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.
Two Georgia Republicans, Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Austin Scott (R-GA), sent a letter to Dept. of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari on September 24, 2020. In the letter, Reps. Collins and Scott question the claims of forced hysterectomies and contend that the whistleblower at the Irwin County Detention Center is politically motivated:
“We write today concerning sensationalized reports regarding the treatment of detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. Recent developments indicate that the allegations included in the complaint made to your office by Dawn Wooten, represented by Project South, are questionable at best. We hope that your office will consider the recently reported facts disputing Ms. Wooten’s allegations, and shedding light on Project South’s radical, anti-law enforcement agenda, as you continue your investigation.”
This resolution has 224 Democratic House cosponsors. It is endorsed by nearly 50 racial and immigration justice advocacy organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, National Immigration Law Center and Women’s Refugee Commission.
Of Note: In mid-September 2020, it was revealed that the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) was investigating allegations that immigrant women detained at a privately-run detention center in Ocilla, Georgia were subjected to gynecological procedures, including hysterectomies, without their full understanding or consent.
The allegations, some of which were submitted as part of a whistleblower complaint by Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse employed by the facility, and Project South, a Southern-based leadership development organization that builds progressive movements, prompted over 170 members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to call for an immediate inquiry within days of the revelation.
In the complaint, Wooten claimed that several women detained at the Irwin County Detention Center told her their uteruses had been removed without their consent. According to Wooten, one woman — who was ultimately not operated on due to testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies — was given three different explanations of what the procedure performed on her would be. Those ranged from having her womb removed entirely to having a small amount of tissue scraped away.
ICE Health Service Corps director Dr. Ada Rivera says the whistleblower complaint will be fully investigated. Simultaneously, Dr. Rivera says ICE “vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures.” In a statement, Dr. Rivera said that two women detained at the facility had been referred for hysterectomies since 2018.
ICE did not respond to requests for information about how many hysterectomy referrals were acted on or how many tubal litigations or other potentially sterilizing procedures it had performed in the past several years.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: Sarahmirk / Creative Commons)