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Lawmakers Say It’s ‘Clear’ Detainees at ICE Facility Had ‘Unnecessary Medical Procedures Done Without Their Knowledge or Consent’

A delegation of House Democrats traveled to Georgia on Saturday to inspect the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility at the center of a bombshell whistleblower complaint alleging that detainees were being subjected to hysterectomies at alarming rates without their consent. After touring the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) and speaking with approximately a dozen of the female detainees, several of the lawmakers confirmed that the allegations appeared to be true.

“Just left the Irwin County Detention Center. After hearing from women who were sent to the same doctor, it’s clear they were having unnecessary medical procedures done to them without their knowledge or consent,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) tweeted. “This is horrendous. We’re not going to stop investigating this.”

In a video accompanying her post, Jayapal said she and her colleagues spoke to “at least four women,” all of whom went to the same doctor who “pushed unnecessary medical procedures.”

“It is clear to me that these women were having unnecessary procedures either done to them or recommended to them, and no knowledge or consent, and it is really horrendous,” she said in the clip.

The visit was prompted by a whistleblower complaint filed by several advocacy organizations on behalf of former ICDC nurse Dawn Wooten earlier this month with the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.

In the complaint, first reported by Law&Crime, Wooten documented “jarring medical neglect” that included an exorbitant rate of hysterectomies being performed without consent by a doctor supposedly known as the “uterus collector” — and a refusal to test for the novel coronavirus.

Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) said ICE officers wouldn’t allow the members of Congress to bring their phones into ICDC so they could record the women speaking because “they [ICE] are emotional, horrifying, and inhumane” and are continuing to try and conceal atrocities from the public.

“Women at Irwin County detention described a disturbing pattern that many who visited a doctor for Gyno/OBGYN issues came back worse,” she tweeted. “One lady got so bad her belly turned blue. Women cried as they talked about her pain. She was released Wednesday, before MOC arrived.”

Barragan also recounted a story in which from one of the female detainees.

“One detainee showed me a medical document and said they gave me injections. I don’t know what for and I didn’t authorize it. Read this and tell me. The document was for a ‘Depo Provera Injection.’ After receiving it she began bleeding and experienced terrible pain for 42 days,” she wrote.

“She was sobbing asking for help. Afraid to see a doctor here. Was told she needed a procedure. She asked for a second opinion and sent to a mental health doctor instead.”

Depo-Provera is a brand name for medroxyprogesterone acetate, which a contraceptive injection.

Rep. Sylvia Garcia similarly said the visit only affirmed the veracity of the allegations made against the detention center.

“ICE Detention Center visit over. Appears stories are true, questions and outrage remain, and investigation will continue,” she tweeted. “We can’t allow ICE or its contractors to use women in such an inhumane way by forcibly subjecting them to unwanted and unnecessary medical procedures.”

After Wooten’s allegations went viral, a subsequent Associated Press investigation was unable to corroborate allegations of mass hysterectomies, but did identify multiple women who said they had undergone surgeries without their consent.

Immigration attorney Andrew Free told the AP that ICDC exhibited a “systemic lack of truly informed and legally valid consent to perform procedures that could ultimately result — intentionally or unintentionally — in sterilization.”

All of the lawmakers who visited ICDC vowed to continue investigations into the facility and its treatment of female detainees.

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.