More immigrant women say they were abused by Ice gynecologist
This article features our client Dawn Wooten and was originally published here.
More women have joined an official legal petition alleging that they were medically abused by a gynecologist while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) custody in a move that significantly expands a case that has shocked America.
The legal petition outlining these alleged abuses was filed in the middle district of Georgia federal court late Monday night. More than 40 women have submitted written testimony attesting to claims of abuse, one attorney on their case said.
These women, who have been detained by Ice at Irwin county detention center in Georgia, have alleged that they underwent invasive and unnecessary medical procedures. The women’s attorneys have also alleged that these women endured retribution for speaking out, including deportation in some cases. The petition largely echoed past legal filings and accounts by accusers.
“Petitioners were victims of non-consensual, medically unindicated and/or invasive gynecological procedures, including unnecessary surgical procedures under general anesthesia, performed by and/or at the direction of [gynaecologist Dr Mahendra Amin],” the petition said. “In many instances, the medically unindicated gynecological procedures Respondent Amin performed on Petitioners amounted to sexual assault.”
Officials were aware of this alleged misconduct since 2018, the petition further alleged, “but have nonetheless continued a policy or custom of sending women to be mistreated and abused by Respondent Amin … The experiences Petitioners had at the hands of Respondent Amin form part of a disturbing pattern of inhumane medical abuse and mistreatment at ICDC.”
“This is an effort to protect women who have suffered horrendous medical atrocities while detained in US custody, and every effort has been made by both Ice and the contractors at this facility to cover up these medical abuses,” said Elora Mukherjee, director of Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, a leading attorney on the case.
She added: “For more than two years, both the government, and the private contractors who run this facility, have turned a blind eye to the enormous suffering and intentional harm–and intentional medical abuse – that has taken place here.”
“It’s unlike anything I ever expected to see in America,” Mukherjee said.
The women’s allegations emerged after a shocking whistleblower report. This report, which was submitted on behalf of a former nurse at the facility, Dawn Wooten, alleged that an alarmingly high number of hysterectomies were performed on Spanish-speaking women. Wooten and other nurses feared that these women did not understand the procedures they underwent.
Wooten alleged that the doctor performing these procedures, who was subsequently named as gynecologist Dr Mahendra Amin, had become notorious for performing these operations – so much so that she called him the “uterus collector” in her whistleblower account.
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy – just about everybody,” Wooten stated in her complaint. “I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor, and they’ve had hysterectomies, and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going.”
Wooten also said that the medical center where these procedures were performed had unsanitary conditions, as well as poor safety measures against Covid-19.
Amin has denied the allegations and told the Intercept that he had only conducted “one or two hysterectomies in the past two [or] three years”. He did not specify whether these procedures were performed on women in Irwin.
The physician’s lawyer, Scott Grubman, said in a previous statement: “We look forward to all of the facts coming out, and are confident that once they do, Dr Amin will be cleared of any wrongdoing.” Ice contended that its records indicate just two referrals for hysterectomies at Irwin.
The accusations have spurred comparisons with the US’s disturbing history of eugenics. From 1907 to 1937, two-thirds of US states passed laws that permitted involuntary sterilization – resulting in the sterilization of more than 60,000 people.
An increase in federal funding for reproductive health procedures in the 1960s and 1970s, in conjunction with racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, resulted in “tens of thousands” of women of color undergoing sterilizations.
Though forced sterilization was made illegal, it has continued. From 1997 to 2013, approximately 1,400 inmates were sterilized in California prisons.