You may have already been reading / listening about the class action lawsuit proposed against Saskatchewan (inter alia) for the coerced sterilization of Indigenous women in that province. If not, see here (or listen). As framed by lawyer Alisa Lombard and 2 Indigenous women claimants, the suit would claim $7m in damages per claimant, and they believe there are around twenty other women who could join the (as yet uncertified) class. Debbie Ironbow, interviewed last year by CBC, is one of those women. Her language below sent me back to Patricia Williams’ “The Alchemy of Race and Rights” and many other assertions about the value of legal rights:
"I think the only thing that speaks is the law," she said. "The only thing we have going for us as Indigenous women and Indigenous people is that we can go into a courtroom and we can assert an inherent right over our bodies." [Debbie Ironbow quoted in David Shield, "'It steals your dreams': Saskatoon woman not sure whether she will join forced-sterilization lawsuit" October 11 2017, CBC News Online]
An independent report was released in the summer of 2017, “Tubal Ligation in the Saskatoon Health Region: The Lived Experience of Aboriginal Women” written by lawyer Senator Dr. Yvonne Boyer and Dr. Judith Bartlett. Afterwards, the Saskatoon Health Authority apologized for the practice of sterilization of Indigenous women without proper or informed consent. In reading through the report and hearing about the lawsuit, I was reminded of this piece that appeared in the jotwell section i co-edit earlier in the year. Prof. Ruthann Robson wrote, in RESISTING ATTEMPTS TO CONTROL THE “HYPER-FERTILE”, about Prof. Maya Manian’s work, The Story of Madrigal v. Quilligan: Coerced Sterilization of Mexican-American Women. It appears in Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories (forthcoming 2019), available at SSRN.
Both Robson’s short jot and Manian’s article are well worth reading, in terms of understanding coerced sterilization and legal approaches to these violations. Robson’s short but informative note concludes with these lines:
The story Manian ultimately tells is one of courage and resistance. As we confront renewed efforts to control the reproductive and sexual rights of immigrants, people of color, and all women, it is a story that is worth reading—and retelling.
Another place that the Saskatchewan case could take us is to the broader question of racism in health care that continues to be the experience of Indigenous people across the country. But for those interested particularly in “coerced sterilization,” here are some recent articles from a variety of national contexts.