The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday urged state leaders to fund reparations to more than 240 survivors of forced sterilizations conducted at LAC+USC Medical Center between 1968 and 1974.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said it was time to reckon with the past, offering a motion that also called on the county to explore stepping up if the state does not act.
“Any intentional efforts to address systemic racism and build more equitable approaches into county services moving forward must confront the most egregious sins of the past,” Solis said.
Forced sterilizations began in California with a 1909 eugenics law that allowed doctors at state institutions to operate on people deemed unfit to have children. More than 20,000 people — including some in their teens — were victimized before the law’s repeal in 1979.
Proponents of eugenics called for “undesirable” populations to be prohibited from passing on their genes. The law targeted individuals suffering from mental illness or physical disabilities and the victims included many poor residents and people of color.
Latina women were 59% more likely to be sterilized than non-Latina women, Solis said.
Despite the law’s repeal decades ago, an analysis by the Center for Investigative Reporting and a follow-up state audit found that more than 140 pregnant women, mostly Black and Latina, were given tubal ligations after giving birth at two California prisons between 2005 and 2013.
The state’s current budget proposal includes $7.5 million for reparations, and each survivor is expected to receive roughly $25,000. However, the LAC+USC patients are not eligible for those payouts because the medical center is operated by a local rather than state agency.
“While no amount of money could ever fully be enough to account for the terrible experiences these women endured through the sterilization program, at the very least we can try to provide financial reparations that can help these survivors ease any financial burdens they may be experiencing,” Solis said.
The board will send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the president of the California Senate and the speaker of the Assembly advocating for local survivors.
The county will identify the patients involved and also explore whether county health services dollars could be used for this purpose in the absence of state funding.
A report is expected back in 90 days.