L.A. County Apologizes for Past Sterilization Sins

After five decades, Los Angeles County is making peace with one of the darkest moments in its history.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors issued a formal apology for the coerced sterilizations of more than 200 women that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s and voiced its support for legislation providing reparations for the aggrieved.

The sterilizations were performed on mostly poor and Latina women who had delivered at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center between 1968 and 1974. A group of them later sued the hospital unsuccessfully. Their story was encapsulated by Renee Tajima-Peña’s 2015 documentary “No Más Bebés.” 

"For hundreds of years, women have been victimized by patriarchal and racist health care policies," said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. "The women affected by this practice led the rest of their lives deprived of full reproductive freedom, an incalculable loss to themselves and their families."

“It’s a very ugly chapter in the state’s history,” she added.

The state’s history with forced and coerced sterilization procedures expands far beyond those six years at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. About 20,000 individuals are believed to have been sterilized by the state under eugenics programs that operated for much of the 20th century. In 2003, Gov. Gray Davis and the California Senate formally apologized for the state’s role in those programs.