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Am J Public Health. 2005 Jul;95(7):1128-38.

Sterilized in the name of public health: race, immigration, and reproductive control in modern California.

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  • 1Center for the History of Medicine, 100 Simpson Memorial Institute, 102 Observatory, Mail Code 0725, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


In exploring the history of involuntary sterilization in California, I connect the approximately 20,000 operations performed on patients in state institutions between 1909 and 1979 to the federally funded procedures carried out at a Los Angeles County hospital in the early 1970s. Highlighting the confluence of factors that facilitated widespread sterilization abuse in the early 1970s, I trace prosterilization arguments predicated on the protection of public health. This historical overview raises important questions about the legacy of eugenics in contemporary California and relates the past to recent developments in health care delivery and genetic screening.

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