While media analyses have yet to confirm reports of widespread hysterectomies at Irwin County Detention Center, more migrant women are sharing their stories.
More immigrant women are coming forward with medical stories about a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Georgia, claiming they were subjected to hysterectomies without consent or proper explanation.
The Associated Press recalls the case of Cardentey Fernandez, a 39-year old woman from Cuba.
While in ICE custody, Fernandez complained of ovarian cysts. She was scheduled to undergo treatment. But, nearly a month afterward, Fernandez says she still does not know exactly what kind of procedure doctors contracted by Irwin County Detention Center performed.
Fernandez says she was handed over 100 pages of medical records, all showing a diagnosis of ovarian cysts.
But after Fernandez went to see Dr. Mahendra Amin for surgery, her medical records abruptly cut off.
“The only thing they told me was, ‘You’re going to go to sleep, and when you wake up, we will have finished,’” she said.
Fernandez, says The Associated Press, kept her hospital admissions bracelet. It shows she was seen by Dr. Amin, who is now being liked to numerous allegations of unwanted hysterectomies—a procedure which removes all or part of the uterus, and can prevent women from having children.
The Associated Press’s review of detainees’ legal records, as well as its investigation of Amin, evidence a disturbing phenomenon: from 2017 forward, Dr. Amin performed at least eight surgical procedures on immigrant women, one of which was a hysterectomy.
But now, more women are stepping forward and saying they too were subject to hysterectomies they either did not want or did understand they were receiving.
Andrew Free, an attorney working with women and civil rights organizations to find out exactly what has been happening at Irwin, said it appears ICE staff and medical professionals routinely misled detainees.
“The indication is there’s a systemic lack of truly informed and legally valid consent to perform procedures that could ultimately result—intentionally or unintentionally—in sterilization,” Free said.
While The Associated Press said it did not find any further evidence showing that hysterectomies were performed on as wide a scale as initially reported in a whistleblower complaint.
Priyanka Bhatt, a staff attorney at Project South, said she’s helped current and former detainees file complaints against ICE. Bhatt explained that, although she has not spoken to any women who claim to have received unwanted hysterectomies, she included their claims to prompt an investigation into them.
“I have a responsibility to listen to the women I’ve spoken with,” Bhatt told The A.P.
Nevertheless, other women interviewed by The Associated Press alleged they had been pressured into hysterectomies by Amin.
One woman even said that, while she consented for one procedure, Dr. Amin discovered a swollen fallopian tube while performing another procedure. He opted to treat the swelling by removing the tube.
“She was shocked and sort of confronted him on that—that she hadn’t given her consent for him to proceed with that,” the woman’s attorney, Van Huynh, said. “The reply he gave was that they were in there anyway and found there was this problem.”
While women can still conceive with a single fallopian tube, other medical professionals derided the practice as “abhorrent.”
Dr. Julie Graves, for instance, told The Associated Press that the procedure Amin was performing should not have even necessitated exploration of a patient’s fallopian tubes. She also implied that what Amin did was illegal.
“It’s established U.S. law that you don’t operate on everything you find,” Graves said. “If you’re in a teaching hospital, and an attending physician does something like that, it’s a scandal and they are fired.”