Are women held in a US immigration detention centre in Georgia being forced to have unnecessary hysterectomies?
That’s the question many are asking after a nurse from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre blew the whistle about terrible health conditions there.
Dawn Wooten, who worked at the Irwin county detention centre (ICDC), gave evidence to a 27-page report by the Project South organisation.
It details many cases of “jarring medical neglect”.
The part of the report that’s particularly alarmed anti‑racists is the passage that “raises red flags regarding the rate at which hysterectomies are performed on immigrant women under ICE custody at ICDC”.
Project South says hysterectomies were carried out at “high rates” and that women who underwent the procedures “didn’t fully understand why they had to get a hysterectomy”.
At the very least this raises a question of whether patients gave “informed consent”.
Wooten’s account is backed by number of women detainees who have come forward to say they were subjected to forced hysterectomies.
A lawyer representing one of the women operated on spoke to the US news network NBC.
He said his client was told by a doctor that she had an ovarian cyst, but a biopsy to confirm this was never carried out. A hysterectomy was then performed on her.
In 2019, Pauline Binam began having irregular periods.
She was 29 at the time and had spent the past two years in custody, awaiting deportation to Cameroon.
The detention centre’s gynaecologist said he would treat a cyst on her ovaries by removing tissue from her uterus, a fairly standard procedure.
But when she woke up from anesthesia, the doctor told her he had removed one of her fallopian tubes due to a clog and that she was now likely infertile.
In this privately-owned detention centre, a large number of hysterectomy procedures are said to have been performed by one doctor, Mehendra Amin.
Some women at the detention centre describe him as the “uterus collector”.
In response to these allegations, a group of angry protesters blocked the road in New York.
In a video shared on social media, the police kettled the 50 to 60 activists and arrested eight of them.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has stepped up his hard line on migration.
Those inside ICE detention centres report cramped conditions, no access to healthcare and some even say they have no access to water.
Wooten also wrote in her complaint that Irwin county detention centre had purposely under-reported Covid-19 cases, leaving detainees and staff at risk.
The horrifying treatment of those trapped in ICE detention centres is part of a racist system that seeks to blame migrants for America’s growing economic crisis.