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

Am J Public Health. 2005 Jul;95(7):1128-38. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2004.041608.


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.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Emigration and Immigration / history
  • Eugenics / history*
  • Eugenics / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / history*
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Public Health / history
  • Racial Groups / history
  • Sterilization, Involuntary / history*
  • Sterilization, Involuntary / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sterilization, Involuntary / statistics & numerical data