No such thing as quality health “care” when you’re in detention
At least 16 African and Indigenous women at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga. have come forward in the past couple months expressing grave concern over the gynecological “care” they received at the hands of Dr. Mahendra Amin who is known as the “primary gynecologist” there by ICE officials.
The “care” in question included a pattern of “aggressive overtreatment” wherein Dr. Amin persistently suggested and performed surgical intervention even when the circumstances did not necessitate it and nonsurgical options were available. For example, he performed hysterectomies on at least four women who believed the procedure was unnecessary.
Dawn Wooten, an African nurse who worked at the detention center, exposed this by filing a whistleblower complaint saying that there was a severe lack of protection provided against COVID-19 in addition to multiple women asking her about why they had their uteri removed without their full understanding or consent.
“I had no answer as to why they had those procedures,” Wooten told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
Here’s one: Department of Homeland Security funds pay independent doctors like Dr. Amin for the treatment they provide for ICE detainees. The procedures that Dr. Amin performed are typically billed at thousands of dollars each.
And the detention center, operated by a private prison company called LaSalle Corrections, refers more than 1,000 detainees for outside medical care. As reported in data from ICE’s inspection, this is considerably higher than most other centers of the same size, though it’s unclear how many were for gynecological care specifically.
This isn’t the first time Dr. Amin’s billings have come under intense scrutiny, either. According to The New York Times, he and several other doctors were called out by the U.S. department of justice in a 2013 civil case for overbilling Medicare and Medicaid “by, among other things, performing unnecessary procedures on terminal patients and leaving the emergency room staffed by nurses while billing for diagnoses and treatments as if they had been performed by doctors.”
The defendants admitted no wrongdoing and the case settled for $520,000.
Colonial violence knows no bounds
This comes as no surprise considering the U.S.’s legacy of medical crimes committed against African and Indigenous people.
In the 19th century, J. Marion Sims, known as the “father of modern gynecology,” performed experiments on enslaved African women without using anesthesia, essentially torturing them and justifying it by arguing that Africans don’t feel pain.
From the 1930s to 1970s, sterilization rates among Puerto Rican women soared.
After the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act passed in 1970, it was reported that within a six-year period, over a quarter of Native women of childbearing age were sterilized, usually under coercion and without full knowledge and understanding of what was being done. This act subsidized sterilizations for patients who relied on Medicaid or the Indian Health Service for their healthcare at the time.
From 1997 to 2010, physicians who worked for the California prison system performed forced sterilization procedures on women after they gave birth while incarcerated, costing California taxpayers $147,460. In four years spanning from 2006 to 2010, physicians performed tubal ligations on 148 women, with some (if not all) happening under coercion.
In 2017, General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield signed a standing order that offered incarcerated people reduced sentences and early release dates if they “volunteered” to undergo a birth control procedure.
And in 2018, despite at least one lawyer who brought complaints about Dr. Amin’s gynecological “care” to the Irwin County Detention Center’s attention, referrals to him continued.
This is genocide point-blank period
This form of repeated mass sterilization of African and Indigenous people over hundreds of years falls under more than one part of the United Nation’s definition of genocide:
That includes “b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;” “c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;” and of course, “d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
Wooten, the African nurse who made the whistleblower complaint against the ICE facility, laid out in an MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes that the sanitation was horrible (i.e. there was none), workers didn’t have proper PPE so neither did the detainees and that if anyone asked about this, they would be reprimanded.
After Wooten made the complaint, she was demoted.
And even when positive cases of COVID-19 started to arise, ICE treated the situation as if no one had contracted the deadly disease. No proper reporting was done to the health department, CDC or LaSalle Corrections, the private prison company that operates the detention center.
This goes beyond negligence.
This is calculated and a part of a long-standing history of colonial violence against African and Indigenous people that started when we first came in contact with colonial white power.
We must organize in the African People’s Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement for African Revolution, which unites with the anti-colonial struggles of all colonized nations to create a world free of these heinous crimes against humanity.
Like Point 5 of the Party’s 14-Point Platform reads, in part:
“…We believe that the worldwide struggle for African liberation is in unity with the struggles being waged by the majority of the peoples of the world to end the oppression of nations by nations and to create a new world, within which the toiling masses will end the system of workers and bosses and slaves and masters and will own and benefit from the means and products of our labor and will have political authority over our own lives…”
Smash colonial violence!
Build the African Revolution!
End the genocide against Indigenous people!
Join the African People’s Socialist Party at apspuhuru.org