The Power of Reproduction: Who Owns the Bodies of Black and Brown Women?

Old Women's Prison, 2014

Ryan Thomas, HU News Service


Historically, the United States has practiced eugenics on a global stage through White hegemonic strategies. Eugenics relies on a ruling class that understands its eliteness is based on certain “desired traits.” The United States government has repeatedly ushered the sterilization and experimentation of Black and Brown bodies. From the mass sterilizations of Puerto Rican women dubbed La Operación in the 1950s to the enactment of the Indian Health Services in 1955, a federal agency known for subsidizing and wrongfully performing sterilization procedures on indigenous women, the United States government is in the business of genocide by way of eugenics.


Dawn Wooten, a recent whistleblower and licensed practical nurse at Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia, reinvigorated conversations regarding eugenics in the United States. Her allegations detailed gross human rights violations regarding ill-considered COVID-19 precautions and most notably mass hysterectomies performed unjustifiably on detained immigrant women.

Pauline Binam, a 30-year-old former detainee at Irwin County Detention Center, arrived in the United States from the West African country Cameroon at 2-years-old. Binam was detained at ICDC in October of 2017 for a petty shoplifting charge at the age of 17 and later a separate larceny charge. While detained and awaiting deportation, she began experiencing irregular menstrual bleeding. After consulting with on-site medical staff, the facility concluded Binam would receive a minor surgical procedure. However, following the procedure the doctor informed Binam that he had also removed her fallopian tubes.

Binam’s story is not uncommon, many other detained women have come forward with similar stories following Wooten’s allegations. Binam’s story becomes distinct because she is a Black migrant woman from Cameroon. Oftentimes, the faces of victims of the refugee-industrial complex are those of Mexican or Central American descent. Although the plight of these persons should not be undermined, Black migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers exist. They are and have always been the greatest sufferers of the White, western eugenic practices ushered by the United States.

Beneficiaries and Victims

Major for-profit prison companies like the GEO Group and CoreCivic are huge beneficiaries of the United States’ eugenic business. In 2019, immigration-detention contractors received $2.32 billion in federal contract revenue last year, according to the Public Citizen analysis. This government spending continues to grow under the Trump administration as efforts to constrain immigration pushes on.

George C. Zoley, the founder of the GEO Group with an estimated net worth of $18.6 million, has contributed to the campaigns of Senator Marco Rubio, George W. Bush, and various other members of the Republican party. Many of George Zoley’s political relationships are with conservatives that emphasize pro-life agendas. However, under Zoley’s leadership, the GEO Group has been criticized for improper COVID-19 precautions, unjust use of solitary confinement, and other allegations of abuse by detainees.

Large American companies like Amazon and Palantir are both examples of technological giants that provide vast assistance to the industry of suffering that is the refugee-industrial complex. Amazon’s role in the U.S. immigration crackdown exists through cloud services. U.S. immigration authorities use Palantir software to track down deportees and Amazon Web Services hosts these databases. Thus, the collaboration of government agencies and technological giants probes grave danger for bodies of color within our growing technocracy.