At least 19 women allege medical abuse at Ice detention center in Georgia
This article features our client Dawn Wooten and was originally published here.
At least 19 women have now alleged that they were subject to medical abuse, including forced surgeries, while detained at an Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (Ice) center in the state of Georgia, according to a new report.
A team of nine board-certified OB-GYNs and two nursing experts reviewed more than 3,200 pages of records obtained for the women and produced a report on their complaints, the Los Angeles Times reported late on Thursday.
The new report comes after a whistleblowing nurse at the Irwin county detention center in Ocilla, southern Georgia, triggered congressional and federal investigations into immigrant women’s treatment while at the facility.
“Do I still have ovaries? Can I still have kids?” a 28-year-old woman asked a nurse as she awoke from surgery, chained to a bed, the LA Times reported.
The women, who are mostly Black and Latina, allege that they were pressured into “unnecessary” gynecological surgeries, including procedures that affect fertility.
The Guardian previously spoke with some of the women who allege they were administered birth control and underwent procedures that included the removal of their reproductive organs, all without their consent.
The whistleblower report, filed on behalf of nurse Dawn Wooten, a former employee of the center, claimed an alarmingly high rate of hysterectomies were performed on Spanish-speaking women whom she and other nurses feared did not understand what they were undergoing.
According to the five-page report submitted to members of Congress on Thursday, the women were all patients of Dr Mahendra Amin – the primary gynecologist linked to the facility.
In the whistleblower complaint, Wooten claimed Amin was so notorious for performing such procedures that she referred to him in the report as the “uterus collector”.
Experts reported an “alarming pattern” where Amin would allegedly take “advantage of the vulnerability of women in detention to pressure them to agree to overly aggressive, inappropriate, and un-consented medical care”.
Wooten said she was demoted and reprimanded when she spoke up, and said immigrants who spoke out were regularly pushed into solitary confinement.
The whistleblower complaint ignited a national uproar and calls for a federal investigation, as well as congressional inquiries. A letter signed by more than 170 Democrats warned that the allegations had echoes of “a dark time in US history” when eugenics laws meant that forced sterilisation was legal in 32 states.
The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, told reporters after its release that, if true, the whistleblower claims represented “a staggering abuse of human rights”.
“These shocking revelations further highlight the extent of the egregious abuses at the Irwin county detention center,” Azadeh Shahshahani, a legal director at Project South, and who helped file the original complaint, told Newsweek.
“The fact that Black and brown immigrant women are held in an extremely vulnerable position at this prison where they have no control over their bodies and no say about what is done to them is sickening,” she added.
Tony Pham, spokesman for the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), told Newsweek that the allegations raise “serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly”.
“It is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare and safety of Ice detainees,” he said, welcoming a congressional and internal review.
Pham vowed that any individual found to have violated Ice policies or procedures would be held accountable.