Ruth Hopkins: Native women still undergoing forced sterilization

The Rosebud Hospital is located on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by Crystal R. Leighton via Facebook

Ruth Hopkins reluctantly underwent a sterilization procedure after being pressured by the Indian Health Service. While she remains fertile, thousands of other Native women haven't been as fortunate:
During the 1970s, stories of Native women being forcibly sterilized began to emerge. In these cases, consent was absent. Some were manipulated and lied to in order for the government to gain access for sterilization. Young Native women living in poverty were told they would lose welfare benefits if they did not undergo sterilization so they agreed to have it done. In other instances, Native women were never asked permission when doctors raped their wombs with a scalpel. Others refused sterilization, but their reproductive organs were severed or removed anyway.

It wasn’t until 1976 that the Federal Government admitted to sterilizing Native women by force. During this era, poor Native women were often dependent on the Indian Health Service for medical care.

A study by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that out of 12 Indian Health Service regions, four of them sterilized 3,406 Native women without their permission between 1973 and 1976, and even though there was a court-ordered moratorium on sterilizing women under the age of 21, it still happened 36 times in three years.

Further research indicated that Native women with higher blood quantum were singled out for forced sterilization and as many as 1 in 4 Native women during this time was sterilized by the Indian Health Service without permission.

Get the Story:
Ruth Hopkins: Painting My Legs Red (Indian Country Today 4/19)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Investigation of Allegations Concerning Indian Health Service (November 1976)

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