Forced Sterilization in the USA
Reports of forced sterilization of Native American women began to surface in the 1970s.* Of the 100,000 to 150,000 Native American women of childbearing age during this period anywhere between 3,400 to 70,000 of these women were involuntarily sterilized through tubal ligation or hysterectomy.* The numbers cannot be accurately known due to poor record keeping but many believe the number to closer to 70,000. Many women were not given a choice to refuse to undergo the sterilization procedure. Many were manipulated into thinking that they would risk losing their welfare aid or even their lives should they refuse to undergo a sterilization procedure. Recent evidence has suggested that the procedure was often carried out under the pretence of other operations, routine check ups or during emergency surgery relating to pregnancy or abortion when the women were experiencing high stress. Many of the victims didn't know they were sterilized until years afterwards.
There is further evidence that the sterilizations had an appreciable effect on the fertility rates of Native American women. In the 1970s, the average birth rate of Native American women was 3.79 children, but by 1980 the birth rate had fallen to 1.8 children.*
These practices have adversely affected many Native communities contributing to high rates of depression, alcoholism, family trauma and personal shame. The time is now for these women to be listened to and for the United States government to recognise and apologise for the pain and suffering caused by these practices.
* "Investigation of Allegations Concerning Indian Health Service". Government Accountability Office. November 4, 1976. Addressed to the Honourable Senator James Abourezk.
* Sally Torpy, “Endangered Species: Native American Women’s Struggle for Their Reproductive Rights and Racial Identity, 1970 to 1980s” (Master’s Thesis, University of Nebraska, Omaha, 1998.)
* Lawrence, Jane (2000). "The Sterilization of Native American Women". American Indian Quarterly.
Amá is a documentary by Lorna Tucker about the sterilization abuses of Native American women across the United States during the last sixty years.
In Amá we discover the story of Jean Whitehorse, a Navajo woman from New Mexico. Jean lets us into her life and through single interviews and observational filming Jean leads us through the events that led up to her being sterilized and the disastrous affect it had on her life.
Amá sheds new light on the Native American story and sets up the context of the twenty-first century obsession with the 'War on Poverty' and the radical and often unregulated medical practices employed against the Native female population. Amá brings the past and the present together in a film that manages to be contemporary and timely.
Sign the petition
It is estimated over a twenty year period between 1960 and 1980 that tens of thousands of Native American women were sterilized without their knowledge or consent. Due to poor record keeping during this era the number may in fact be much higher. Many of these women went to their graves having suffered this incredible abuse of power. We will petition the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to introduce a bill calling for a public apology to the individuals and their Tribal Nations.
We ask individuals around the world to stand by the victims of this horrific abuse by signing our petition.
Please sign the petition at CHANGE.ORG - link below.
CLICK HERE to sign
Lorna Tucker (Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist) explores this dark chapter in History, piecing together a tragic story of the destruction of Native American families where children were removed from their families and thousands of women sterilised without their consent. Along the way she finds a growing number of women ready to confront the pain of the past.
Colin Firth - Producer
Nuala O'Leary - Producer
Claire Ferguson - Editor
Amá - The movie
Raindog Films Ltd
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Dartmouth Films Ltd
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London, WC2R 1LA
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