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ICE Whistleblower Alleges Illegal Hysterectomies on Immigrant Women

This week, advocacy groups filed a complaint against a Georgia immigration detention centre based on allegations from a nurse that immigrant women were improperly receiving hysterectomies and other gynaecological procedures.

Advocacy groups Project South and the Government Accountability Project along with Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General on Monday, expressing concerns about the large number of hysterectomies performed on Spanish-speaking women at the centre when they complained of heavy periods or asked for birth control. She further alleges that they often did not fully understand why they had to get a hysterectomy - an operation involving the removal of all or part of the uterus.

Speaking to reporters, Ms Wooten alleged that the centre refused to test symptomatic detainees. Source: Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

Speaking to reporters, Ms Wooten further alleged that the centre refused to test symptomatic detainees.

ailed to isolate suspected cases, and did not encourage social-distancing practices. She also claimed that she was demoted after protesting the conditions and staying home while symptomatic.

The allegations caused an outcry among Democratic lawmakers including U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

US Congress Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also tweeted a call to abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency once and for all.

Project South lawyer Priyanka Bhatt, on Tuesday, shed light on the numerous reports about issues surrounding women's health at the facility going back several years, including lack of prenatal care.

Allegations of unsanitary conditions at the centre's medical unit were included in the complaint too. In a letter, another immigrant described the medical unit as being "dirty and with animals like ants and insects, with only one bed, toilet and sink".

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied the allegations and claimed that “a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed against a detainee’s will.” In statements released on Monday, ICE said it was taking the allegations seriously and was "firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody".

In response to allegations about Covid-19 safety, an ICE spokesman said: "ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees."

Dr Ada Rivera, the medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said in a statement that since 2018, only two individuals at the Irwin centre in Georgia were referred for hysterectomies based on recommendations by specialists that “were reviewed by the facility clinical authority and approved.”

LaSalle Corrections, the private contractor that runs the facility, has also released a statement in which he “strongly refutes these allegations and any implications of misconduct” at the Irwin centre.

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