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Rep. Jayapal Takes Up the Cause of Women Allegedly Subjected to Unnecessary Hysterectomies

Rep. Jayapal Takes Up the Cause of Women Allegedly Subjected to Unnecessary Hysterectomies

  • The Congresswoman claims there could be many more women at ICE Detention Center in Georgia who were allegedly victimized by an Indian American doctor.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), believes that there could be many more victims than 17-18 women who have complained about unnecessary hysterectomies conducted at a Georgia immigrant detention center.

Jayapal is among lawmakers who have sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to investigate a complaint filed by detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. Although the complaint did not name the gynecologist who performed unnecessary hysterectomies on some of the women, and was referred to by his nickname ‘Uterus Collector,’ he was later identified as Dr. Mahendra Amin of Douglas. 

Dr. Amin’s identity was first reported by Prism, a non-profit news outlet. Dr. Amin, 68, is affiliated with Coffee Regional Medical Center and Irwin County Hospital, where the immigration detention facility reportedly sends some detainees for treatment. 

Scott R. Grubman, a lawyer for Dr. Amin, said in a statement that he and his client “vehemently deny” the allegations. “Dr. Amin is a highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia,” Grubman said in a statement, according to news reports. The New York Times reported that Grubman “pointed to an admission made to The Washington Post by the lawyer who handled the filing of the complaint that she had not personally spoken with anyone who was sterilized without their consent, but that she included the secondhand reports in the document ‘with the intention of triggering an investigation into whether or not the claims were true.’”

Meanwhile, a letter co-signed by 173 members of the Congress including Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), said, “We are horrified to see reports of mass hysterectomies performed on detained women in the facility, without their full, informed consent.”

Addressed to Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari, the letter urges the DHS to “conduct an immediate investigation to examine allegations raised by whistleblower Dawn Wooten and immigrants currently and formerly detained in the (ICDC) Irwin County Detention Center.” The ICDC is operated by the private prison company LaSalle Corrections. 

After hearing from three attorneys representing detainees at the ICDC, Jayapal told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that there could be more women at the facility who could have gone through unnecessary gynecological procedures as well. The 17-18 women named in the complaint had lawyers representing them, Jayapal said. Given that many of the detainees at ICE facilities are pro se, meaning, they don’t have a lawyer and represent themselves, Jayapal told Maddow she has reason to believe that there could be a possibility of more women who have been subjected to similar procedures. “It’s possible this is much larger,” she said. “I won’t stop investigating.”

Jayapal was also instrumental in stopping the deportation of Pauline Binam, a former ICDC detainee on Sept. 16. Jayapal and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) reportedly contacted ICE, and Binam was removed from the plane before it took off for Cameroon. “We need her to testify,” Jayapal told the New York Times. “This story sends a chill through any woman.” Binam’s attorney, Van Huynh told the Times, that her client underwent a procedure for an ovarian cyst in 2019 that involved general anesthesia. Binam was then transferred from the ICDC to an ICE detention facility in Texas, Huynh told the Times. 

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The complaint on behalf of Wooten, who worked as a nurse at ICDC for three years, was filed on Sept. 14 by advocacy groups — Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network. “Lawyers representing clients at ICDC are claiming that immigrant women are routinely being sent to Dr. Amin, who has left them bruised and performed unnecessary procedures, including hysterectomies,” according to a NBC report.

 Priyanka Bhatt, a staff attorney at Project South, one of the groups that filed the complaint.

Lawyers representing these women have told various news outlets that this is not the first time that ICE has been accused of neglecting immigrants’ health and safety, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“For years, advocates in Georgia have raised red flags about the human rights violations occurring inside the Irwin County Detention Center,” Priyanka Bhatt, a staff attorney at Project South, one of the groups that filed the complaint, said in a statement, according to NPR. “Ms. Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years: gross disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care, and unsanitary living conditions at Irwin.”  She told The Hill that it includes “jarring information regarding the lack of medical care occurring inside Irwin County Detention Center including medical staff deliberately shredding medical request forms from detained immigrants without looking at them, medical staff falsifying records, denial of COVID-19 testing for detained immigrants, and very concerning accounts from detained immigrants and a protected whistleblower regarding hysterectomies. We hope that this complaint will illustrate the dire need to thoroughly investigate and close the facility,” she said. 

Similarly, Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, a nonprofit that also helped file the complaint, told Teen Vogue that “much of what’s in the complaint is actually a lot of stuff we already know about how ICE operates. Ultimately, there’s nothing we can do to make these facilities better. We have to shut down Irwin and we have to abolish detention. Attorney Elizabeth Matherne told the Times that “at least half a dozen clients had complained to her about what they described as rough treatment by the doctor.”

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