This Article describes the legal history of how, twenty years after the sterilizations began, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, in 1978, finally created regulations that prohibited the sterilizations. It tells the heroic story of Connie Redbird Uri, a Native American physician and lawyer, who discovered the secret program of government sterilizations, and created a movement that pressured the government to codify provisions that ended the program. It discusses the shocking revelation by several Tribal Nations that doctors at the IHS hospitals had sterilized at least 25 percent of Native American women of childbearing age around the country. Most of the women were sterilized without their knowledge or without giving valid consent. It explains the obstacles that Connie Redbird Uri and other Native activists faced when confronting the sterilizations, including the widespread acceptance of eugenic sterilizations, federal legislation that gave doctors economic incentives to perform the procedures, and paternalistic views about the reproductive choices of women, and especially women of color. Finally, this Article describes the long-lasting impacts of the federally-sponsored sterilization of Native women. The sterilizations devastated many women, reduced tribal populations, and terminated the bloodlines of some Tribal Nations.
The Enemy is the Knife: Native Americans, Medical Genocide, and the Prohibition of Nonconsensual Sterilizations,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol27/iss1/3