Earlier this week, a whistle-blower complaint alleged that a gynecologist has been performing hysterectomies at a disturbingly high rate at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Georgia. The allegations have not been substantiated, but the whistle-blower suggested that many of these surgeries may have proceeded without the informed consent of the women receiving them. The complaint has drawn the attention of top congressional lawmakers, 170 of whom have called for an investigation by the Homeland Security inspector general, and renewed calls to abolish ICE. At this point, these are only allegations, and ICE denies them, as does the prison operator.
Regardless of what actually happened at the Georgia detention center, America has a long and shameful history of sterilizing women — and sometimes men — without their consent. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Americans grew infatuated with the American eugenics movement, which sought to