To: The California State Senate and Governor Gavin Newsom

Repeal CA Law Encouraging Sterilization of Poor Women

Repeal the California law that encourages parents to be sterilized or use permanent forms of birth control, and requires rape victims to disclose private information if they are to receive basic needs assistance for children resulting from rape. This 20-year-old law pushes the boundary of appropriate governmental intervention, violates the reproductive privacy and autonomy of low-income parents, and pushes poor families even further into poverty.

Why is this important?

Between 1997 and 2010, California prisons spent nearly $150k on tubal ligation procedures on women prisoners who may have been inappropriately coerced into having the procedure. When asked about this expense, Dr. James Heinrich, a state prison doctor, said: “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money, compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children—as they procreated more.” Dr. Heinrich, employed to provide gynecological services in California prisons, was accused of pressuring inmates into being sterilized.

He said this in 2013. This year.

In California, we like to believe that there is strong support for the idea that reproductive decisions are our own and that they are private. Unfortunately, our policies often contradict this vision and this is especially true for the minority of California’s women who live with incomes below the poverty level. We must do more to fix that, to make sure that California’s laws and practices keep pace with our beliefs and values.

This is why we are asking the state legislature and Governor Brown to reverse a 20-year-old policy that approves basic needs assistance for infants born to a poor family only if their parents were sterilized or their mother was using an Inter Uterine Device when the child was conceived or the mother discloses private documents that prove that her child was conceived as a result of rape and that the rape was reported to officials within 12 months.

This rule, called the CalWORKs MFG rule was implemented with the goal of controlling the reproductive choices of poor parents. The rule applies regardless of the parent’s personal, religious or relational objections to the use of contraception or whether the types of contraception required by the statute (sterilization or IUD) are available and affordable to the parent or recommended by their health practitioner.

This policy is a disrespectful and dangerous governmental intrusion into the privacy of women and men based wholly on the belief that the ends justify the means. In this case, the end goal is to prevent poor families from having children. However, decades of research has not substantiated that these types of policies have any impact on birthrates among low-income women. Instead, the rule has resulted in deep poverty and increased suffering among our state’s poorest infants, children and families.

Join us in calling for a repeal of this policy. Sign Now.

Assembly Bill 271, authored by Holly J. Mitchell, will repeal the state's aweful MFG Policy. AB 271 is co-authored by Senator Hancock and Assembly Members Ammiano, Blumenfield, Buchanan, Dickenson, Garcia, Lowenthal, Pan, E.M.Perez, Skinner and has over 60 child health, reproductive justice and anti-poverty organizations in support.

For more information about the bill or efforts to repeal the MFG policy, go to: