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Do you consent to be sterilized in exchange for a reduced prison sentence? This might feel like an impossible question to answer, but it is one the state sometimes asks of individuals prior to sentencing. In Tennessee, for example, inmates were offered the choice to be sterilized or face increased jail time. As of May 15, 2017, more than 30 incarcerated women had been given Nexplanon implants to prevent pregnancy. Additionally, 38 men were offered a 30-day reduced sentence under the condition that they had vasectomies. In California, prison doctors recommended that inmates undergo the removal of reproductive organs or sterilization as a treatment for cervical cancer. The problem: the patients didn’t have cancer. The doctors simply lied. Inmates have also been victims of non-consensual hysterectomies after giving birth. Between 2004 and 2013, nearly 150 incarcerated women underwent tubal ligations—a procedure in which fallopian tubes are cut, tied, or blocked to permanently prevent pregnancy. Only in 2014 did California pass a bill to ban sterilization for birth control purposes among incarcerated people. We should see such controlling of incarcerated people’s capacities to reproduce—either in a permanent or temporary way—as modern-day eugenics.  

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