New Film Sheds Light On The Unwanted Sterilization Of Immigrant Latinas In The ’70s


PBS brings a new documentary, No Más Bebés, which explores the stories of 10 immigrant Latinas who sued LA county doctors, the U.S. government and the state of California back in 1975 for violating their civil rights. The women were either sterilized without being fully aware of what the procedure meant or threatened to sign off on the operation, or expect her unborn child to die.

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Each woman went to the hospital for an emergency cesarean section, but all ended up incapable of bearing any more children. The documentary essentially examines how the lawsuit, Madrigal Vs. Quilligan, began, and further explores the notions of uninformed consent coupled with coercion, along with the social-economical barriers these women faced.

The film’s director Reneee Tajima-Pena and producer Virginia Espino also showcase the burgeoning federally funded family-planning programs, which were made to stop the immigrant populations from increasing. It highlights the cultural misunderstanding of those in power, whom would come to the conclusion that poor women who need to rely on public assistance should refrain from having children.

These misconceptions led to thousands of women across the country to face sterilization in the late ’60s and early ’70s. This movement unfortunately, affected women of all backgrounds, including Native American, Puerto Ricans and Black women. A 1982 film, La Operacion, by Ana Maria Garcia, details the sterilization procedure Boricua women went through.

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“They weren’t taking into account that if you were Spanish-speaking, and if you don’t speak English, you were being denied a right, totally,” Gloria Molina, a California politician part of the 1970s Chicana Feminist movement, says in No Más Bebés.

Watch the trailer for No Más Bebés, below. See full film, here.