Democrats are pushing for an investigation into the dramatic charge that a contract doctor secretly removed the uteruses of migrant women who were detained at a privately-run detention center in Georgia.
“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are a staggering abuse of human rights,” said a September 15 statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, adding:
This profoundly disturbing situation recalls some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, from the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, to the horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to the forced sterilizations of Black women that Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others underwent and fought.
The pre-election controversy is a boon to Democrats because it helps revive the Democrats’ emotional condemnation of President Donald Trump’s border policies. Those policies have included the temporary separation of migrants from their children in 2018, so that the parents could be jailed for breaking the nation’s immigration laws.
On Wednesday, 173 Democrats signed a letter calling for an investigation “into new whistleblower allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on women detained at the privately-run Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.”
The letter said the allegations were “raised by a whistleblower and numerous immigrants who shared their concerns about the high rates of hysterectomies being performed, calling the facility an, “experimental concentration camp” and the doctor performing the procedures, “the uterus collector.”
The new claim also helps pro-migration activists revive their persistent campaign to shut down private prisons. That goal is important because, without private prisons, federal immigration officials would be forced to release million of migrants into U.S. workplaces and neighborhoods. In 2019, for example, almost one million poor migrants flooded across the border. Roughly 3.75 million Americans were born in 2019.
Pelosi echoed the campaign against private prisons, saying, “Reports such as these point to the urgent need to overhaul our unaccountable detention system and its horrific misuse by the Trump Administration, to ensure that these abuses cannot ever again happen.”
A statement from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said:
The accusations will be fully investigated by an independent office, however, ICE vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures. ICE’s mission is to protect the homeland and to swiftly and quickly remove people from the country; the health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities, any assertion or claim to the contrary is false and intentionally misleading.
The claim is getting some skeptical coverage from establishment media outlets.
The origin of the claim was detailed by Slate, a left-0f-center website:
The complaint was first reported by LawandCrime.com, a website run by attorney and television personality Dan Abrams. That report is entirely sourced from the filed complaint and mostly focuses on the lack of proper COVID-19 protocols, but the LawandCrime.com headline focused on the alleged sterilizations—“ ‘Like an Experimental Concentration Camp’: Whistleblower Complaint Alleges Mass Hysterectomies at ICE Detention Center.” The story was widely shared on Monday night, and as of Tuesday, multiple other news outlets covered the allegations. Thus far, no one has obtained direct corroboration from women who allege they were forced into a hysterectomy.
The complaint also includes testimony from Wooten, who said she was concerned about what she perceived as a high rate for the procedure at ICDC and the problematic circumstances that seemed to surround the procedure. Wooten tells the story of a young woman who was supposed to have a cyst removed from her left ovary, but the doctor accidentally removed the right ovary. The woman had to go back to have the left ovary removed, which meant she “wound up with a total hysterectomy.” Wooten gave a statement in which she claimed that there is a doctor treating the detained women who she described as “the uterus collector,” saying, “Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out.” The organization’s legal and advocacy director, Azadeh Shahshahani, told Vox that though the group knew the identity of the doctor in question, it had decided not to release his name publicly yet.
The Washington Post noted:
The [Wooten complaint] did not detail any detainees who said they had received a hysterectomy against their will; one woman anonymously quoted in the complaint said that she was scheduled for the procedure without her consent but that it was canceled when she tested positive for covid-19.
Priyanka Bhatt, staff attorney at Project South, acknowledged to The Washington Post that she did not speak to any women who had a forced sterilization, and said she included the allegations in the report with the intention of triggering an investigation into whether or not the claims were true.
“I didn’t speak to anyone who had one,” Bhatt said. “But the things we have heard are concerning, and we need to find out more information.”
The DHS statement added:
All female ICE detainees receive routine, age-appropriate gynecological and obstetrical health care, consistent with recognized community guidelines for women’s health services. According to U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) data, since 2018, only two individuals at Irwin County Detention Center were referred to certified, credentialed medical professionals at gynecological and obstetrical health care facilities for hysterectomies in compliance with National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) standards. Based on their evaluations, these specialists recommended hysterectomies. These recommendations were reviewed by the facility clinical authority and approved.
To be clear, medical care decisions concerning detainees are made by medical personnel, not by law enforcement personnel. Detainees are afforded informed consent, and a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed against a detainee’s will.
All medical professionals certainly have a duty to report any issues of concern through appropriate channels, such as making a report to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG); however, it is unfortunate that those involved in this report have chosen to first go to the media with their allegations, without allowing the government to examine or take appropriate action.
Out of respect for the process of matters pending before the OIG, ICE does not comment prematurely on reported allegations, and ICE intends to fully cooperate with any resulting investigation by the OIG.