by Heather Rosewarne
When I heard the news on September 21 that immigrant women at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia had their reproductive organs removed without consent, I was horrified then angry. I had spent the previous day in a conference about systemic racism in healthcare with a specific focus on violence against enslaved women in U.S. history. Currently, immigrants in detention are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect, but the reports of the reproductive violence in Georgia are particularly chilling.
I have lived and worked on the Texas-Mexico border in shelters with immigrant and refugee families. There I heard first-hand stories about people’s migration journeys such as leaving home because there was no work to support their families or because of gang violence in which their lives are threatened. People leave when situations are dire, traveling by foot, on buses or trains, with the hope of better opportunities elsewhere. In general, people flee their countries of origin because of extreme political and social instability, where many endure violence and persecution. Many migrants experience sexual violence along the journey and then suffer abuses while held prisoner in U.S. immigration facilities. Most of these people will be deported without fair legal access.
Over the last 15 years as a labor and delivery nurse in Seattle, I have cared for people giving birth as well as during emergencies and tragedies. Fundamental healthcare rights include making sure people understand what’s happening during their care, holding space for questions, using medical interpreters, getting consent, and giving access to pain medicine when needed. The fact that none of these basic healthcare rights were given to incarcerated people is heartbreaking. When people are given a consent to sign in medical jargon in a language they don’t understand or are coerced to make a decision by a medical authority, that is not proper informed consent.Continue reading My Solidarity Vigil for the Immigrant Women Sterilized in Georgia