1976: Government admits unauthorized sterilization of Indian Women

Photo: National Library of Medicine


A study by the U.S. General Accounting Office finds that 4 of the 12 Indian Health Service regions sterilized 3,406 American Indian women without their permission between 1973 and 1976. The GAO finds that 36 women under age 21 were sterilized during this period despite a court ordered moratorium on sterilizations of women younger than 21.


Two years earlier, an independent study by Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri, Choctaw/Cherokee, found that one in four American Indian women had been sterilized without her consent. PInkerton-Uri’s research indicated that the Indian Health Service had “singled out full-blooded Indian women for sterilization procedures.” 


“Over the six-year period that had followed the passage of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, physicians sterilized perhaps 25% of Native American women of childbearing age, and there is evidence suggesting that the numbers were actually even higher. Some of these procedures were performed under pressure or duress, or without the women’s knowledge or understanding. The law subsidized sterilizations for patients who received their health care through the Indian Health Service and for Medicaid patients, and black and Latina women were also targets of coercive sterilization in these years.”




The Title X Family Planning Program (officially known as Public Law 91-572 or “Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Programs”) is the only federal grant program dedicated to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. It was enacted under President Richard Nixon in 1970 as part of the Public Health Service. 


And for those who attempt to negate the government’s participation in these instances, what is the IHS?



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