Marie Sanchez & Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri

“I am known to be a fighter. I don’t know why, I don’t carry a knife or a gun, I carry a stethoscope….” — Dr. Pinkerton-Uri

Marie Sanchez & Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri

…together, in the 1970s, these women uncovered the alarming practice by our government of forced sterilization in the Native American communities. 

A young Native American woman entered Dr. Pinkerton-Uri’s office and asked for a “womb transplant,” misinformed about the sterilization procedure by her doctor. Two young women entered an Indian Health Service hospital (IHS, a U.S. federal agency) for appendectomies and received tubal ligations at the age of 15 and without their consent or knowledge, apparently a common occurrence during the 1960s and 70s. And if the Native American women who came into the IHS practices were even told about the tubal ligation, in some cases, they were misled into believing that the sterilization procedure was reversible. 

After some research, Dr. Pinkerton-Uri said the Indian Health Service had “singled out full-blooded Indian women for sterilization procedures.”

Marie Sanchez, chief tribal judge on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, arrived in Geneva in 1977 with a clear message to deliver to the United Nations Convention on Indigenous Rights. American Indian women, she argued, were targets of the “modern form” of genocide—sterilization.

Over the six-year period that had followed the passage of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, physicians sterilized perhaps 25% of Native American women of childbearing age, and there is evidence suggesting that the numbers were actually even higher. The law subsidized sterilizations for patients who received their health care through the IHS and for Medicaid patients, and Black and Latina women were also targets of coercive sterilization in these years.

This punctuates the fact that a woman’s bodily autonomy, her own health choices, should never be decided by the government.

The short list:

  • Two women advocating for the reproductive rights of young Native American women.
  • Attended the Geneva Convention to expose the sterilization practice of the government’s Indian Health Services (IHS).
  • Spoke on behalf of the many who worked for the federal government but were not able to speak out publicly about this heinous practice.
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