California Senate Approves Senator Skinner’s SB 1190, the Forced Sterilization Compensation Act

May 31, 2018

California Senate Approves Senator Skinner’s SB 1190, the Forced Sterilization Compensation Act

Yesterday, the California Senate unanimously passed Senator Nancy Skinner’s legislation, SB 1190, which would create and fund a state program to compensate survivors of involuntary, eugenics-based sterilizations that took place while those individuals were institutionalized at state homes and mental hospitals. 

“Very few of those unjustly sterilized by our State are still with us today,” said Senator Skinner. “While we can never fully atone for this dark chapter in our history, for the 600 or so of those forcibly sterilized who are still alive today, we can provide restitution.” 

Comparable to programs now established in both North Carolina and Virginia, SB 1190 requires California to identify and compensate survivors who were sterilized as a result of their being in a state home or mental hospital. Survivors would be required to submit claims; if the claimant passes away before authentication of their application, restitution would be provided to a designated beneficiary.

California’s “eugenics” law was passed in 1909 and authorized surgical sterilization for people who were deemed “unfit” to reproduce because they were considered to have “defective traits.” Eugenics laws were applied with significant bias against racial minorities, poor people, and those labeled as disabled. Often required as a precondition for institutional release, such sterilizations would now be considered a grave violation of human rights. Records show that thousands of Californians were sterilized from the time the law passed until 1979 when it was repealed—more than any other state and roughly a third of all such sterilizations in the U.S. 

While forced sterilization affected people of all genders and ethnicities, women and Latinas were especially impacted. Recent research studies show that Latinas were 59 percent more likely to be sterilized; and of the estimated 630 forcibly sterilized Californians who are believed to still be alive, 62 percent are women.

“The choice to have children is a foundational human right, over seven decades California took that right away from thousands of people” said Skinner. “This program offers a measure of solace and sheds light on this shameful period so it never happens again.”

Senator Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) represents the 9th Senate District. She serves as Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary.