Whistleblower nurse alleges mass hysterectomies at U.S. immigration detention centre

Activists from Yakima Immigrant Response Network wave flowers in front of a barbed wire fence

US immigration officials said on Tuesday a federal watchdog would investigate complaints made by a whistleblower nurse in a Georgia immigration detention facility who alleged detainees had improperly received hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment based on the lawyers' allegations.

Wooten says that numerous nurses tried to communicate with the women by "Googling Spanish" or by asking another detainee to translate, rather than the official language services they're supposed to use.

Attorneys representing detainees at Irwin told Reuters several women had complained about gynecological treatment by an outside provider to the facility.

Wooten explained that though some women may need a hysterectomy to correct heavy menstruation or other severe issues, "everybody's uterus can not be that bad". But then again, that's always the way with Donald Trump's administration, isn't it?

"If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint - including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women - are a staggering abuse of human rights", House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement.

In statements released on Monday, ICE said it was taking the allegations seriously and was "firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody". He's even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady [detained immigrant woman]. "They're now being detained, waiting for their day in court, which they're entitled to under the law".

Multiple women came forward to tell Project South about what they perceived to be the inordinate rate at which women in ICDC were subjected to hysterectomies - a surgical operation in which all or part of the uterus is removed. Moreover, many of those who had undergone the procedure had difficulty explaining why it had been done. When she countered one of the reasons given by noting that the justification of reducing her menstrual bleeding didn't fit with her medical history, a nurse "responded by getting angry and agitated, and began yelling at her", the complaint states.

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"She still wanted children - so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can't bear kids ... she said she was not all the way out under anesthesia and heard him [doctor] tell the nurse that he took the wrong ovary", Wooten recounted.

"Recently, a detained immigrant told Project South that she talked to five different women detained at ICDC between October and December 2019 who had a hysterectomy done", the complaint says. It's run by the private LaSalle Corrections, a Louisiana company.

Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred into the facility and out to other facilities, another violation of CDC guidelines.

"I don't think this is necessarily a systemic sterilization by ICE I think this is the kind of thing that is allowed to flourish in the course of poor oversight and bad, inhumane conditions of confinement", said Owings. Immigrant detainees who spoke out against the conditions were put in solitary confinement, according to the report. The New York Times reported in June that inmates engaged in protests because of concerns about poor COVID-19 protections.

Wooten - who is being represented in the matter by the Government Accountability Project - also confirmed that numerous detained women told her that they didn't understand why they were being forced to have the procedure. She said nurses ignored detainees reporting COVID-19 symptoms. "... These immigrant women, I don't think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what's going to happen depending on who explains it to them".

Wooten said in the complaint that the number of women recommended for the procedure was concerning: "Everybody [the gynecologist] sees has a hysterectomy - just about everybody".

Wooten said the facility declined to use two rapid-testing COVID-19 machines that ICE purchased for $14,000 each. There were also reported incidences of ICDC management "hiding information from employees and detained immigrants about who has tested positive for COVID-19". Nationwide, 5,772 detainees were positive.

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