Mexico investigating alleged ICE detainee hysterectomies

CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Mexico is investigating reports that at least six of its nationals were among women in US immigration custody on whom hysterectomies were allegedly performed without their full consent, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday.

“We are already in contact with six of whom could potentially have been subjected to this procedure,” Marcelo Ebrard said at a Sept. 22 press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City.

He said, “It's something unacceptable”, and added that “if confirmed, it's a major issue and should not only be sactioned, but other measures taken as well.”

Last week The Intercept reported a whistleblower complaint had been filed by several advocacy groups on behalf of a nurse at a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center for migrants in Georgia.

The nurse, Dawn Wooten, as well as several immigrant women, claimed that an apparently high rate of hysterectomies were performed on immigrant women while in ICE custody at Irwin County Detention Center, and that some of the women did not understand the procedure they were receiving.

According to the whistleblower complaint, the immigrant women were referred to one doctor in particular who was allegedly known for performing frequent hysterectomies; Wooten called the doctor “the uterus collector.” Wooten reported that some nurses could not communicate well with Spanish-speaking migrants,

One immigrant told the activist group Project South that during a two-month period, she met five other women at the prison who had received hysterectomies, and who “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.”

Wooten agreed with accounts from detainees who said they had undergone hysterectomies without fully understanding what was happening.

“I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor and they’ve had hysterectomies and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going,” she said.

“These immigrant women, I don’t think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what’s going to happen depending on who explains it to them.”

According to the complaint, another detainee was frightened and did not understand what medical procedure she was receiving; she was reportedly given three different answers by three different staffers.

The acting director of U.S. immigration services has ordered an expedited investigation into the allegations.

ICE health services director Dr. Ada Rivera has said that only two women have been referred for hysterectomies at Irwin County Detention Center since 2018.

The Mexican foreign ministry said last week that its consulates in Atlanta and El Paso are following up on the allegations of involuntary hysterectomies at the location in Georgia, and of allegations of sexual abuse against a Mexican citizen by ICE agents in El Paso.

“The Consulate has requested detailed information from the authorities in order to clarify the possibility of said surgeries being performed in Mexican citizens, as well as information on the procedures carried out and its corresponding justification. The Government of Mexico will promptly follow up through its various diplomatic and legal instruments to fully understand what happened,” the ministry said in a Sept. 16 statement.

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