Prison doctors sterilized nearly 150 California women between 2006 and 2010 without gaining required state approval, a bombshell report revealed yesterday.
At least 148 female inmates had their tubes tied over those five years, according to interviews and state records obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting.
As many as 100 more women had those unauthorized procedures done to them dating back to the late 1990s, according to the report.
Former inmates and prisoner advocates said medical staffers pressured them into sterilization, fearing they could be back in the system someday.
Christina Cordero, 34, who did two years for auto theft, recalled how her prison’s OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich, allegedly pressured her into a tubal ligation.
“As soon as he 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,” said Cordero.
“He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.”
From 1997 to 2010, California paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services.
Dr. Heinrich denied he pressured anyone into sterilization and said the $147,460 isn’t a major cost.
Heinrich said the procedures are important because women with a prison history “procreated more.”
“Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money,” Heinrich said, “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”
Former inmate Crystal Nguyen, who worked in the Valley State Prison infirmary in 2007, said she regularly heard medical staff badger women into sterilization.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” said Nguyen, 28. “Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?”
Forced sterilizations of prisoners, the mentally ill and poor were once common in Golden State prisons until California lawmakers banned the practice in 1979.