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October 8 Tuesday

Coerced Sterilization of Mexican-American Women: The Story of Madrigal v. Quilligan

  • Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 12:05PM - 1:30PM
  • SLB Room 122
  • Open To The Yale Community
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This chapter tells the story of Madrigal v. Quilligan, an unpublished decision from a California federal district court refusing to remedy sterilization abuse in the early 1970s. After a whistleblower leaked evidence of rampant sterilization abuse at the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, ten women (the Madrigal Ten) filed a lawsuit alleging that medical personnel systematically coerced Mexican-American women into submitting to sterilization. The case dramatically altered public consciousness and public policy on coerced sterilization. Despite their loss in the damages phase of the litigation, the Madrigal Ten served as the catalyst for California’s strengthened regulations for ensuring voluntary consent to sterilization. In addition, the Madrigal litigation also inspired the anti-sterilization abuse movement in California and helped to shape Chicana feminism in the 1970s. The case galvanized Chicana feminist activism in ways that highlighted tensions between mainstream white feminists and women of color. The Chicana activists working on the Madrigal matter used multiple strategies to achieve their policy goals. They relied not only on the litigation of the case itself, but also lobbied for legislative reform and engaged in public education, including through widespread media attention. The activists brought the still nascent framework of reproductive justice to the forefront, incorporating concerns about discrimination along intersectional lines of gender, race, poverty, and immigration status — all issues at play in the Madrigal case. This chapter also explores how the story of Madrigal v. Quilligan still resonates today. The threat of sterilization abuse continues to loom for vulnerable populations, particularly poor women and women of color.

Professor Maya Manian’s scholarship investigates the relationship between constitutional law, family law, and health care law, with a particular focus on access to reproductive health care. She publishes and presents widely on reproductive rights and justice. Her publications include “Minors, Parents, and Minor Parents” (Missouri Law Review, 2016); “Lessons from Personhood’s Defeat: Abortion Restrictions and Side Effects on Women’s Health” (Ohio State Law Journal, 2013); “The Irrational Woman: Informed Consent and Abortion Decision-Making” (Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, 2009); and “Rights, Remedies, and Facial Challenges” (Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, 2009). She was a visiting scholar at the Columbia Law School Center for Gender and Sexuality Law for the 2014-2015 academic year. She previously served as a Blackmun Fellowship Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York City, where she was a visiting scholar for a series of events during the 2011-2012 academic year. Professor Manian received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her law degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she served on the Harvard Law Review. She is currently a PhD candidate in medical sociology at the University of California, San Francisco.


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