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Friday, July 27, 2012

Eugenics in California: A Legacy of the Past?

A free event open to the public, “Eugenics in California: a Legacy of the
Past?,” will take place at the Berkeley Law School on the UC Berkeley
campus (105 Boalt Hall) on August 28, 2012 from 12:30 to 2 pm.

For much of the 20th century, California was at the forefront of eugenic
ideology and practices in the United States, and holds the dubious
distinction of being the state with the highest number of eugenic
sterilizations performed under the authority of law – some 20,000
procedures between 1909 and the mid-1950s. Coerced sterilizations
continued in public hospitals into the 1970s, and it has recently come to
light that in very recent years, women prisoners in California have been
sterilized without their consent or knowledge. Today, California is a
leader in research and services related to human genomics and assisted
reproductive technologies. Speakers at this public event will consider the
long history of eugenics in California and explore continuities and
discontinuities in the uses and misuses of genetic ideas and practices.

Dean Christopher Edley, Berkeley School of Law, will give opening remarks
to welcome attendees.


"Eugenic Sterilization in California: Stories and Statistics"
Miroslava Chávez-García, University of California at Davis, and Alexandra
Minna Stern, University of Michigan

We provide an overview of the patterns of the 20,000 eugenic sterilizations
performed in California state institutions from 1909 to 1979, with close
attention to race, gender, class, and diagnosis. We will also highlight
stories of sterilization victims and the ways in which they attempted to
challenge the state's authority to control and contain their reproductive
rights. As we will demonstrate, the process had a devastating impact on
the victims.

¿Más Bebés? (documentary film)
Renee Tajima-Peña, University of California at Santa Cruz; Virginia Espino,
University of California at Santa Cruz, and Kate Trumbull, documentary

The feature-length documentary ¿Más Bebés? (working title) investigates
the history of Mexican American women who allege they were coercively
sterilized at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and
70s. Many spoke no English, and testified that they were prodded into
tubal ligations during active labor. The sterilizations triggered the
1978 class action lawsuit, Madrigal v. Quilligan, and a protest campaign
that galvanized the Chicana feminist movement.

Eugenics in California Women’s Prisons Today
Kimberly Jeffrey and Courtney Hooks, Justice Now

Since 2003, Justice Now has been working collaboratively with people in
California’s women’s prisons to document how prisons violate the
international right to family and function as a tool of reproductive
oppression. Presenters will place a spotlight on personal experience with
as well as the systemic pattern of destruction of reproductive capacity of
women of color and gender variant people in California women’s prisons
through several state-sanctioned policies, including forced and coerced
sterilizations (e.g. the illegal and routine sterilization of hundreds of
people in prison during labor and delivery), and other violations of safe
motherhood and reproductive justice.

Should We Worry About a New Eugenics?
Marcy Darnovsky, Center for Genetics and Society

Today's fast-developing genetic and reproductive technologies offer
significant benefits, but can also be misused in ways that exacerbate
existing inequalities and create entirely new forms of injustice.
California, a hotbed of eugenic advocacy in the last century, is today a
center of biotechnology research and commercial development and the
assisted reproduction sector, as well as home to some troubling
techno-enthusiastic ideologies. Our efforts to confront California's
eugenic history can help prevent these dynamics from veering toward a new

CONTACTS: Susan Schweik, UC Berkeley,, Marcy
Darnovsky, Center for Genetics and Society,

Co-sponsored by Berkeley’s Haas Diversity Research Center, School of Law,
Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, American Cultures Center,
Disability Studies program, and Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice.

This event is wheelchair accessible. Captioning will be provided. To
request an accommodation, please email

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