No Más Bebés (Analysis)

Analysis: No Más Bebés

1022 Words


  1. No Más Bebés, Reneé Tajima-Peña, June 14th 2015
  2. This film details the story of Mexican immigrant mother who were sterilized without fully knowledgeable consent. These women came into the Los Angeles county hospital while giving birth and were coercively sterilized under the guise that this would help them. The central argument of this film is that the practice of secret sterilization should not happen. The film has some secondary arguments, including that the secret sterilizations were racially motivated, they have a significantly harmful effect on the women involved, and there were specific historical contingencies that allowed such an operation to occur without weighing on the conscience of those performing the operation.
  3. The social catalysts that led to these uncalled for sterilizations include xenophobia combined with large population growth. The population in the United States rose drastically in the 1960s and 1970s, due to increased birth rates and immigration. At this point, people saw poor immigrants much the same way as Darwin and his contemporaries viewed the residuum; a group that needs to be suppressed, or at least to reproduce less. To counteract this problem, the US government instilled family planning programs to teach poor citizens about birth control methods. Funding was directed towards controlling the reproduction of minority populations, and attitudes towards immigrants were grim. The doctors felt that their Mexican immigrant patients had already had too many children that they couldn’t pay for, so they would have the women sign off on a form they couldn’t understand while in great pain. The women could not read nor understand the consent form for tubal ligation, so these procedures were nonconsensual.
  4. The part I found the most compelling was the sheer effect that forced sterilization had on these women. Because these women came from a culture that they held close to them, and that culture puts much weight on having many kids, having large children is a large and crucial part of their lives. Forcing sterilization upon these women is stripping their culture away from them, and at times led to them being called ‘yegua’ (sterile horse) by their husbands, if they told their husbands at all. In Maria Figueroa’s case, her husband would become abusive, but she stayed with him until eventually she was driven to attempt suicide (she did not succeed). Some of these women wound up getting post-traumatic stress disorder because of the operation. The sheer weight that this mental illness can have on a person is drastic and explosive. This illness lasts much longer when another human is the cause of the trauma, so I can imagine that the coerced sterilization had an effect that lasted years. In fact, when interviewed recently, the interviewed women said that they still wish that it had never happened, and they feel as though a part of them is missing. These women, while still in labor, were showed a needle and a form; the needle would take away the pain as long as they signed the form. This form was in English, and many of the women couldn’t understand English. Even if they could, they were in so much pain that understanding the form wouldn’t prevent the coercive sterilization. One woman reported that the doctor said the baby would die if she didn’t sign the form; she said that of course she picked the baby. Medical procedures that have to be done through trickery should not be done at all. Those exposed to medical operations should have the right to understand, in their own language and reading level, what they are getting into. It is ridiculous and invasive that anything else should happen.
  5. I was confused as to why Quilligan, the head of the Women’s Hospital, was so ignorant to the actions of the doctors under him. He himself advocated for the good treatment of patients, and yet under his supervision hundreds of women were forcibly sterilized during cesarean sections. He claims that the chain of command in hospitals and the sheer number of patients obscured the fact that this situation was unfolding under his very nose. I agree with Dr. Rosenfeld, the medical resident that became the whistleblower, in that no private doctor would ever get away with asking a woman in labor if she wanted to have a tubal ligation so she would never have children again. It is repulsive to think that the doctors thought it was all well and good to sterilize these women purely based on the fact that they were poor immigrants. I also found it confusing that they lost the case. Their evidence was overwhelming and heartbreaking; even the court clerk was shocked at the outcome of the trial.
    1. Walter Cronkite on the sterilization policy (first image is of a baby being born):
      “This birth is, in reality, part of a statewide birth control program. The aim is to space out or limit children born to the poor, the poor who cannot adequately feed or clothe the children they already have.”
    2. Michael Kritzer, defendant:
      “Our goal wasn’t to sterilize all the incoming Mexican population. That’s not what anybody ever even intimated.”
    3. Maria Hurtado, plaintiff and sterilized woman:
      “They looked at me and said, ‘This one has too many kids, let’s sew her up so she won’t know we did the operation.’”
      “[They told me] you’d better sign these papers or your baby probably could die here.”
    4. Bernard Rosenfeld, whistleblower:
      “I couldn’t believe that something like this was happening in the United States.”
      (Then compared to policies of Third Reich)
    5. Orencio Hernandez, son of sterilized woman:
      “It’s good I never knew because if I knew I … would hurt the people that did this, you know?”
  7. Do such injustices in the medical community still occur in the United States today? How can we stop this from happening in the future? During the 1930s, Germany’s sterilization program was generally approved by the United States, and that didn’t end well at all. Does the backlash against these sterilizations show that humans have changed? Or does the fact that it happened show that we haven’t changed?