In 1972, a 26-year-old Native American woman visited her doctor in Los Angeles asking for a womb transplant. Six years earlier, a different doctor, whom she was seeing through the Indian Health Service, performed a hysterectomy on her because she was struggling with alcoholism. The doctor told her it was reversible, so she agreed. She thought it wasn’t a good time to be a mother yet. Now she and her husband were ready to start a family. But the Los Angeles doctor, Connie Uri, a Choctaw-Cherokee, had to tell her that there was no such thing as a womb transplant. The woman left in tears, and Dr. Uri began her investigation into the Indian Health Service’s campaign of sterilization abuse against Native American women.
So begins the latest episode of the Rewire podcast “CHOICE/LESS,” which outlines how the federally funded Indian Health Service sterilized thousands of Native women in the 1960s and 1970s without their informed consent. Surreptitious sterilization is not unique to Native women, but it has had a particularly damaging effect on their communities. Says Charon Asetoyer, the Comanche activist and women’s rights advocate interviewed in the episode, “Some people say it was part of eugenics. We say it was genocide.”
Listen to the full episode here.