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Multiple Detained Women Say Their Reproductive Organs Were Removed Unnecessarily

MSBNC's Chris Hayes reported on at least two women who claim they underwent the procedures without their consent while detained at an ICE facility in Georgia.

Multiple women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement alleged on Wednesday that a doctor unnecessarily removed their reproductive organs, corroborating earlier reports of sterilizations without consent on migrant women from a detention facility in Georgia.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes reported on his show about at least two women who claimed that their reproductive organs were removed and they either did not fully consent to or were coerced into the procedures while detained at the privately run ICE Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia. 

One of the women told Hayes that she was pressured into a full hysterectomy while she was detained. The woman, whose identity is being withheld by MSNBC because she’s in immigration proceedings and fears for her status, said the gynecologist who performed the removal was Dr. Mahendra Amin, who has also been accused in other reports of performing unwanted hysterectomies on immigrant women.

“I felt like I had no right to say anything,” the woman said in a recording to MSNBC. “Dr. Amin just told me, ‘You’re gonna get a hysterectomy done, and schedule an appointment for that.’ I had no say in this.”

Amin’s lawyer told BuzzFeed News the doctor is aware of the allegations and “vigorously” denies them, adding that the gynecologist has “dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia.”

Hayes also reported about an immigrant, who had come to the U.S. at age 2 from Cameroon, who said one of her fallopian tubes was removed without her consent while she was detained at ICDC. Pauline Binam’s lawyer alleged she went to the doctor for a procedure to remove tissue from inside the uterus but that when she woke up after surgery, she was told a fallopian tube had been removed and that she had very little chance of becoming pregnant.

According to MSNBC, ICE was prepared to deport Binam on Wednesday morning ― just two days after a whistleblower complaint alleged there had been mass sterilizations. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) intervened, and Binam was taken off the plane.

Several groups filed a complaint made public on Monday on behalf of whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a nurse who worked full time at the facility until July. The complaint alleges that officials have created unsanitary conditions and allowed for “jarring medical neglect” at ICDC.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy ― just about everybody,” Wooten said of Amin in the complaint. “He’s even taken out the wrong ovary”  on a detained immigrant woman.

ICDC is operated by LaSalle Corrections. The for-profit prison company is currently facing a lawsuit over a death at a county jail it runs on the border of Texas and Arkansas.

“LaSalle has a corporate culture of treating all inmates as fakers,” says the lawsuit over Holly Barlow-Austin’s “senseless” death at the Bi-State Jail. “When inmates report medical problems, LaSalle guards and nurses accuse them of feigning illness or distress.”

LaSalle told MSNBC that the company has a “strict zero-tolerance policy for any kind of inappropriate behavior in our facilities” and strongly denies any allegations of misconduct.

The U.S. has a long history of performing forced medical operations on marginalized groups as a way to try to bolster white supremacy. Up to 70,000 Americans, most of whom were women, were forcibly sterilized from the early 1900s to the 1970s, a time in which 32 states had eugenic-sterilization laws. The victims were deemed unfit to bear children because of eugenics ― the idea that people who are non-white, poor, mentally ill or disabled must be bred out of future generations.

More than 170 House representatives on Wednesday urged an immediate investigation from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general into the allegations of mass sterilizations and demanded an update on the status of an investigation by Sept. 25.

“This shameful history of sterilization in the United States, in particular sterilization of people of color and incarcerated people, must never be repeated,” a letter from the representatives said. “Yet, the similarities to the accounts of immigrant women and nurses in the Irwin County Detention Center today are eerily similar.”

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