The War on Wombs

Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

Pauline Binam, an immigrant from Cameroon imprisoned in the Irwin County, Georgia detention center, was told she had to have minor surgery to remove small cysts. She was reluctant to undergo the surgery, since she had heard stories of invasive procedures, including sterilization, among other women detained in the center, but she finally agreed.

When she came out of the office of Dr. Mahendra Amin, the gynecologist for the center, she was informed that he had removed her fallopian tube—without warning and without consent. Binam joined a growing number of women who have testified about unnecessary gynecological surgeries and sterilizations in the center. One immigrant woman at Irwin told lawyers she talked to five women who had undergone hysterectomies and none seemed to understand what had happened to them, much less why.

“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” she said in a formal complaint filed by Project South.

Much of the complaint with the Department of Homeland Security is based on the testimony of a brave nurse who decided to speak out. Dawn Wooten, an LPN at the Irwin County center, told Project South that immigrant women sent to Amin were routinely sterilized, regardless of the complaint they went in with. Wooten, who is a protected whistleblower now, told a crowd “I became a whistleblower, now I’m a target. I’ll be a target anytime, as opposed to remaining a part of an inhumane system”. She was demoted. Binam, who arrived in the United States at the age of two, was whisked away for express deportation, but when it was suspected that authorities falsified her travel documents for the deportation and her case received major media attention, she was released for humanitarian reasons. Binam, 29, had been in detention for three years, separated from her little daughter, her family and the place she had called home almost her entire life.

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Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS) .

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