Inmate Sterilization, the Continued Assault on Women’s Autonomy


For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727  E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

Inmate Sterilization, the Continued Assault on Women’s Autonomy

The Center for Investigative Reporting released a report indicating that nearly 150 inmates in two California state prisons were sterilized without state approval between 2006 and 2010. The tubal ligation procedures were in violation of prison rules, but according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners, the state paid doctors $147,460 from 1997 to 2010 to perform these sterilizations. Worse, former inmates interviewed for the story reported that prison medical staff coerced the women, allegedly based on their likelihood of returning to prison.

“This apparent targeting of women in prison and coercing them into sterilization––without state approval––is reminiscent of the eugenics practices of the early 20th century,” said Secular Woman President Kim Rippere. “These women have been manipulated and robbed of their reproductive rights at a time when they were most vulnerable.” The sterilizations echo a disturbing past for the state of California in particular. “Between 1909 and 1964, about 20,000 women and men in California were stripped of the ability to reproduce – making the state the nation’s most prolific sterilizer,” reports the Center for Investigative Reporting. “Historians say Nazi Germany sought the advice of the state’s eugenics leaders in the 1930s.” Racial minorities, the disabled, the poor, criminals, and the mentally ill were targets of compulsory sterilization laws in California and 31 other states.

The number of incarcerated women is increasing at nearly double the rate of men in the United States, with a high number of nonviolent, drug-related offenses; female inmates have disproportionately prevalent histories of physical and sexual abuse. African-American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely to be incarcerated. In the context of these alarming numbers, these recent findings of coerced sterilizations in California prisons seem to be  merely a continuation of California’s dark history of eugenics.

Secular Woman decries this abuse of women already in the vulnerable position of incarceration; we support every woman’s right to body autonomy and are gravely concerned at this attempt to control reproduction by selectively sterilizing groups considered to be unfit to procreate. Tubal ligation is a major surgery for women under the best of circumstances––much more invasive than vasectomy for men––requiring general anesthesia and, also, unlike vasectomy, is irreversible. Reports from former inmates indicate that many were coerced into sterilization while under sedation, in labor, and often based on inaccurate advice regarding their risk factors––for example, based on the idea that women who have had multiple C-sections should be sterilized. “Dr.Carolyn Sufrin, an OB-GYN at San Francisco General Hospital who teaches at UC San Francisco, said it is not common practice to offer tubal ligations to women who’ve had one C-section,” the report stated. “She confirmed that having multiple C-sections increases the risk of complications, but even then, she said, it’s more appropriate to offer women reversible means of birth control, like intrauterine devices or implants.”

This attempt to selectively control women’s reproductive choices has extremely disturbing social and medical implications; furthermore, shaming women into a serious and permanent medical procedure that will impact the rest of their lives is the height of unethical behavior. Secular Woman hopes that, as a result of these findings, swift action will be taken to ensure transparency and proper acquisition of approval for medical procedures in U.S. prisons, to prevent unethical physicians from taking advantage.


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit:

The Invasion of Women’s Bodies continues in North Carolina

The Invasion of Women’s Bodies continues in North Carolina

by Elsa Roberts, follow her on Twitter

North Carolina legislators continued their underhanded attack on women’s reproductive rights yesterday with a sleight-of-hand move, transferring the anti-abortion language on HB 695 to a motorcycle safety bill (SB 353) early yesterday morning. This surprise move includes citizens being denied their right to speak; there is a three hour comment period today, but it is only open to representatives, many of whom have done a very poor job representing – as the continued Moral Monday protests demonstrate.

Suzanne Buckley, Executive Director of NARAL North Carolina, expressed the anger many in NC, and concerned citizens across the country feel, stating,


the process this legislation has taken shows an utter disregard for women’s health and safety. This is not the kind of leadership North Carolina voters deserve. The women’s health advocates and reproductive rights supporters who have showed up at the NCGA every day this week to protest HB 695 will not be silenced by empty promises or word-games, and they will not be fooled by claims that SB 353 is somehow a pro-women bill.

It is clear that NC legislators are determined to stomp out women’s reproductive rights, despite the will of the people and the disastrous effects it will have on women’s life and health. Secular Woman President, Kim Rippere, urges women from around the U.S. to “stand with NC and continue to fight.” She reminds us that this bill and other’s like it are “part of a concerted effort by theocratic politicians to push through religious based legislation nationwide, from Texas to Ohio to North Carolina.” She continues, “We must fight against this trend to legislate religious based ideology into women’s uteri and lives and maintain a firm separation of church and state.”

North Carolina lawmakers are barely adhering to an appearance of process, restricting and outright denying public comment, switching language to new bills with only a moment’s notice, and restricting the audience to an unreasonable degree (no laughter or clapping in hearings). “They have made it clear that injecting their religious beliefs into bills is more important than representing the people they were elected to and upholding the constitution and women’s rights,” states Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.

These laws, if passed, cannot stand. They fly in the face of women’s constitutional rights and years of court precedent. Secular Woman looks forward to the injunctions sure to be placed on legislation of this type and of the courts upholding women’s right to bodily autonomy.

With these continued roadblocks and underhanded moves state lawmakers hope to wear women and their supporters down, but we can’t let that happen! To hold on to our rights and reject the insertion of religion into our bodies we must remain vigilant and continue to keep up the pressure, in North Carolina and across the country. We must Stand With Women! Take action and contact Governor McCrory and spread the word on what is happening in North Carolina.



Stand With Ohio Women

Ohio reproductive rights activists attempted to fight a budget decision that includes late additions that would defund Planned Parenthood centers, shut down abortion clinics, and redirect state funding to right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers” (read: pro-life manipulation stations), reported. The budget, which was passed shortly before 5 p.m. despite protests from onlookers, a large social media contingent, and multiple Democratic representatives, goes so far as to redefine pregnancy as beginning as fertilization, defining a fetus as “human offspring developing during pregnancy from the moment of conception”––a move that could have disastrous effects for emergency contraception.

Peggy Clancy, a Secular Woman member, went to Columbus to take a stand for women’s reproductive freedom; she and many pro-choice women brought a strong showing to the House and Senate but were herded out and confined to the Senate gallery after the bill was passed. “We stood up and several yelled ‘shame on you!’ says Clancy. “That got us all told to leave immediately.

“This is important to me because I was a student nurse when Roe v. Wade was decided,” said Clancy in an interview. “I remember the older nurses talking about the septic back-alley abortion victims they couldn't save. I knew I was so lucky to be coming of age at a time when birth control and abortion could be safe easy to get and respectable. I hate to see young women today living at a more primitive time without what was available then.”

“Abortions must be safe, legal and accessible,” says Kim Rippere, president of Secular Woman.

“Making them inaccessible or illegal only creates an environment in which women are again forced into back-alley abortions. More women’s lives will be at risk with this bill and similar bills passing throughout the country. Fundamentalists think that striping women of their human rights is acceptable and desired; fundamentally, they have no regard for women and their bodily autonomy, their choices, their lives, and their families.”

Clancy encourages women to continue calling Ohio Gov. John Kasich to express their support of access to birth control and abortion without unnecessary restrictions at 614-466-3555––and keep these events in mind during November elections.

ShameLESS, Without Regret

by Kim Rippere, follow her on twitter

My abortion story is 30 years long.

When I was 18, I had a one-night stand and stupidly used the pullout method. Without any testing, I knew I was pregnant pretty quickly; but, like many teenagers (with brains that are not fully developed), I chose to ignore it. I knew the problem wasn't going away, but ignoring seemed like the best option. As a 47-year-old woman I now wonder how I could have ever made such a decision to ignore something so important.

I told two people: my best friends. Both were and are very different. One was another young woman who lived in the same medium sized town. The other was a guy who lived 3,000 miles away. He was the first person I told and he eventually became my husband, and, although we have divorced he is now still my best friend.

But getting back to my 18 year-old self. Lunch was getting earlier and earlier. I was just so hungry. Then the final straw. I went shopping with my Mom to Plums in the San Fernando Valley and she said I was “thick” in the middle. I knew I had to do something. I was also terrified that I was too many weeks pregnant to get an abortion.

Somehow, I figured out where I could get an abortion in my local community. My local friend took me to the clinic and brought me home. Honestly, I do not remember anything from the procedure; other than the relief that, given how pregnant I was, they were willing to perform the operation.

My friend brought me home with some medication and all was well. I screwed up the medication some, but no harm. This friend fell off the radar and was never heard from again. Odd, but her choice and whatever.

Fast forward 30 years to Facebook. Don't all good stories include Facebook?!? I moved quite a bit as a child and remember my middle school friends better than some high schools friends. Having an unusual last name, people started finding me and we had some short chats to reignite the ties (when I remembered them, sadly not always). But, mostly, nothing came of these.

Then, my friend who disappeared after my abortion found me. I accepted the friend request and thought “hmmm.” Whatever, it cannot hurt. One day I brought up what had happened via private message. She apologized! Turns out she is deeply religious, against abortion, and has had some of her own trials and experiences over the years that taught her “grace.” Her word. It never occurred to me that she might have had her own opinions about my choice and that was why she disappeared! As a 47-year-old woman, how could I never have considered that she might have had feelings about my abortion?

My abortion and fetus is something she gave great thought to over the years. A completely different reaction than my own; I put the whole thing behind me and didn't give it another thought. I wasn’t in denial, it just wasn't a big deal in my life. I don't think about my foot operation much either.

I have never regretted this decision and cannot imagine my life if I had made any other decision. I have been telling people since I was ten that I didn't want kids. I am and will always be childless by choice. Having the ability to choose a child-free life is of fundamental importance to me. I had an abortion and I am #shameLESS.

#ShameLESS, a Campaign to Help End Abortion Stigma


For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727  E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

#ShameLESS, a Campaign to Help End Abortion Stigma

Secular Woman, through its latest project @AbortTheocracy, is launching a new month-long campaign aimed at reducing abortion stigma and encouraging people to talk openly, shamelessly, about their abortion experiences. The campaign is, appropriately, called #ShameLESS. And, in July, we will be sharing your stories about abortion through memes which you can share via social media, as well as articles on abortion and reproductive health and rights throughout the month.

This campaign is a response to the fact that even though approximately one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, many women and people designated female at birth (DFAB) are silent and ashamed about their abortion. When we are silent we are alone.  It is possible that the peson sitting next to you has had an abortion and never told their sister, mother, best friend, or anyone – this collective silence disempowers and isolates us.  Just as domestic abuse victims were alone and isolated in the 1970s before talking about abuse became more acceptable. When women find their voice and use it to tell their lived experiences they change our lives, the lives of future women, and society.

Abortion is a medical procedure, and, like other medical procedures, a woman (or person DFAB) and her doctor should be making the decision without interference or intervention from religious groups or any governmental legislative body. One of our goals for this year is to “advocate for women’s bodily autonomy and sovereignty”; this campaign is an integral part of that.

This campaign will launch with a story from the co-founder, Kim Rippere who says, “I am Shameless and I’m ready to tell my story.” Storytelling is a powerful force for change, with each story told this month another woman will find her voice and other women will be empowered to be #ShameLESS and unafraid.


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit:

@AbortTheocracy is a project focused on the intersection of religious power over women’s bodily autonomy and sovereignty, dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government.

Senator Wendy Davis Leads “Unruly Mob” in Exercise of Democracy

Thanks to the bravery of Texas senator Wendy Davis, the Texas democrats, and hundreds of Texans in attendance at the capitol yesterday, Senate Bill 5––a bill that would have legislated widespread restrictions to abortion access––is dead. Secular Woman applauds this brave stand by Davis, whose filibuster last night that made national news and quickly garnered massive support on social media (including a tweet linking to the livestream from President Obama, using the hashtag #StandWithWendy.).

Though Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst suspended the filibuster at 10 p.m. last night, claiming Davis digressed from the topic at hand with her discussion of mandatory ultrasounds, the Democrats appealed the decision immediately, and the already-inspired crowd became even more animated.

Spectators filled the chamber gallery, chanting “Let her speak” for several minutes after the filibuster was suspended. The Austin Statesman reported that the senate struggled to vote on the bill “over the sustained and screaming protests from spectators in the gallery,” especially when Republicans motioned to call off all debate. Senators tried to vote on the bill, but the crowd continued its protests, exploding into cheers when State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, challenging the ruling against Davis, asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The "people's filibuster" delayed the vote until the clock ran out on the session, the Statesman reported this morning; Secular Woman donated to RH Reality Check’s call for funds to help provide food for the protestors. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst expressed his frustration to the Statesman, remarking, "An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.” If the “tactic” he is referring to is democracy, he couldn’t be more correct.

Monday night, Davis tweeted, "The leadership may not want to listen to TX women, but they will have to listen to me. I intend to filibuster this bill. #SB5 #txlege" Beginning at 11:18 a.m. on Tuesday, and sporting pink tennis shoes, Davis began an eleven-hour filibuster against a bill that would have closed all but five of the state's abortion clinics, prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, forced clinics to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers, and restricted access to medication abortions, reported the Huffington Post. The bill also would have required any doctor at a clinic to obtain admitting rights at a local hospital, reporter Ben Philpott told NPR. “In rural Texas… you don’t have a hospital within 30 miles of some of these clinics, let alone one that would then be able to give you admitting privileges.” While Republicans argued that the bill would help ensure women’s safety, it would effectively have shut down all but a handful of clinics in the state.

Secular Woman supports every person's right to bodily and sexual autonomy and opposes all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion. Our @AbortTheocracy campaign, which covered the session proceedings until the wee hours via Twitter, is specifically focused on the intersection of religious power and women's bodily autonomy and sovereignty and dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government. We stand with Wendy Davis and applaud her activism to protect women’s health in Texas. “Women are entitled to full and complete ownership of their bodies,” says Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.

The connection between full bodily autonomy and religious influence in government must be terminated so that women are free, empowered, and in control of their lives and their futures.

Davis began her filibuster by accusing the GOP of "a raw abuse of power," citing their decision to allow the bill to be debated without the required two-thirds support and accusing them of placing a political agenda over the well-being of Texans. “The reality of this bill is not to make women safer … it’s to force the closure of facilities across the state of Texas that would provide proper care to women,” Davis said. “The actions intended by our state’s leaders hurt Texas; they hurt Texas women and their families.”  

Texas rules for a filibuster prohibit leaning on one's desk, pausing, or straying off subject; warnings work on a three-strike system, reports NPR. Davis took no bathroom breaks, spoke with no food or water, and wore a back brace to avoid needing to lean. At one point Republican Sen. Tommy Williams  attempted to have her filibuster suspended because of the back brace. Democratic Senator Kirk Watson expressed support for Davis's filibuster, telling the Statesman,

There’s an assault on women in this state and this legislation is a prime example of that. It’s important that a woman who’s the mother of two daughters will be the one standing. We will all be there providing assistance and help.

Though The Texas Legislative Service originally listed SB5 as having passed on “6-26-13,” the listing was changed shortly after 1 a.m. to reflect passage before midnight; at 3 a.m., Dewhurst announced that although the bill passed on a 19-to-10 vote, it was dead.

“Today was democracy in action,” Davis told her crowd of supporters last night. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.” In response to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “unruly mob” remark, Davis retorted, “I think that’s a disservice to the people who were here. The people who were here were justifiably upset about an attempt to infringe upon a constitutional right they hold dear, primarily one that would have an impact on women but also on the men who love them.”

Are you #ShameLESS?

Secular Woman, through our project Abort Theocracy, has launched a campaign aimed at eliminating stigma and encouraging people to talk openly, shamelessly, about their reproductive health experiences. The campaign is, appropriately, called #ShameLESS. We are sharing your stories on our sister site

Share your first person reproductive health story on topics like abortion, adoption, childfree decisions, miscarriage, midwifery, genital mutilation, sex ed, etc. with us today by filling out this form and let everyone know you are #ShameLESS!

CPCs: Not a Reasonable Option

“Pregnant? Need Help?”

Have you seen these signs around your community? You might be forgiven for mistaking them as advertisements for women’s health centers – but you’d be wrong. These are advertisements for religious organizations called Crisis Pregnancy Centers and they are the happy recipients of your tax dollars.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are anti-choice “fake clinics” which exist solely to dissuade women from having abortions and, more often than not, are run by churches and religious organizations. They often advertise falsely in phone listings as “abortion services” or “family planning services” but the only service most provide are drugstore pregnancy tests and, in limited cases, an ultrasound. In fact, very, very few CPCs even have medically trained staff, choosing to rely instead on church volunteers. Many CPCs have been caught in the act of giving out false medical information and acting coercively, all in the name of God and a woman’s traditional role. Some CPCs have deceptive sounding names such as “A Woman’s Choice” and women often find themselves calling what they think is a clinic or an abortion provider only to find that the person on the other end of the line refuses to discuss abortion or contraception unless the woman comes in first, “just to talk”. All of this subterfuge is meant to trick women into visiting the center so that more pressure can be brought to bear.

I visited a Crisis Pregnancy Center as a teenager and found out very quickly that the main focus was evangelizing. I was greeted by what I now know was a volunteer who led me to a private room and had me give a urine sample. She placed the sample on her desk, popped in a drugstore test stick and picked up a heavy bible. She told me she wanted to pass the time by reading scripture to me. I sat and listened politely and then told her I was non-religious. She insisted on praying with me anyway and then read the result of my test – negative. She then asked me if I used contraception and told me that condoms don’t really work and that I was better off just not having sex at all. With that, I was released.

My friend *Katie was not so lucky. Years later she visited the same CPC and her test was positive. Instead of offering support to a pregnant teen, the center pressured her to give the baby up once it was born. Katie was adamant that she wanted to raise the baby herself but the volunteers at the CPC had already pulled out a list of eager couples and continued to pressure her with horror stories of teen parenthood. She was finally able to leave and is now a happy mother.

Not content with simply defunding Planned Parenthood, many conservative states and even the federal government are openly giving taxpayer dollars to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. In fact, in 2010 the Obama administration gave Care Net, one of the largest purveyors of CPCs a “capacity building” grant, despite the fact that the organization is strictly a proselytizing entity which does not provide family planning services and which has an explicit “Christian only” hiring practice.

State and local government give further support to these religious centers by openly endorsing them in ways that seem innocuous to those who don’t know what CPCs do. The Virginia Department of Health lists Crisis Pregnancy Centers in its online publication, A Virginia Guide to Family Planning, Genetics and Social Services while leaving unmentioned any family planning clinics.  The guide even mentions Colonial Heights Baptist Church as a family planning resource!

Government funding of CPCs is clearly a violation of the separation clause of the first amendment. In 2011, I began a campaign to get the Virginia Department of Health to stop endorsing CPCs through its guide and you can get active in your state too. Check out your state and city health departments to see whether they endorse CPCs and start a campaign. You might also want to find out who is teaching sex education in your city’s schools. In some states, sex education teachers are not required to be certified and anyone can volunteer to teach it and many churches see this as a great opportunity to send in one of their own. You can also fight back by using this handy toolkit to document false advertising practices used by CPCs.

Finally, you can get educated. It’s astonishing how many people are unaware of CPCs or don’t realize the intensely religious nature of what goes on behind their doors. Consider hosting a screening of 12th and Delaware in your community to let everyone see firsthand and objectively what CPCs are all about and the damage they do to women’s lives.

*Name has been changed

Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson

Richmond (VA) Clinic Defense

[email protected]


Why I Don’t Regret My Abortion by T. J. N.

Secular Woman opposes all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion. 

The following picture was posted on Secular Woman's Facebook page:


destigmatize abortion


One of the respondents to the picture stated that she was one of the "1 in 3" that had chosen to have an abortion and she didn't regret it. When asked to elaborate on her reasons, she wrote the following and gave us permission to publish it here:

It was legal, and it should remain so. It should also be more accessible. There are too many stresses on women and their families regarding abortion, a simple medical procedure that is as safe and helpful. Extremists, whose beliefs and fears should be kept more private, are far more concerned about potential life than about the actual lives and circumstances of contemporary families. THAT is MOST unethical and based in emotionalism and irrationality, not in rational concern for humanity and the family, be it nuclear or other.

It was the most ethical choice. The foster care system was and is overburdened and there were already far too many children who needed loving homes stranded in the system. Considering all of the problems with overpopulation and the environment; overburdened health care, foster care and social service systems; and diminishing opportunities for women, who were then making less than 60 cents to every dollar a man made, how could it not have been the most ethical choice for a single woman with no college degree, an unsupportive boyfriend and an estranged family? I'd have more time, energy, and resources – both economic and emotional – to devote to the care of my only child who was born later, when I was ready to be a mom. I'd have a child who was a WANTED child.

I did not have to bring a child into the world whose father was not ready or willing to be a good father, much less a good boyfriend or husband. He did not want anything to do with the child that would have resulted if my pregnancy was carried to term, which I considered doing. I was not compelled to marry an incompatible and emotionally unhealthy partner who wanted absolutely nothing to do with my pregnancy, much less prenatal care. 

The government and/or adoptive parents did not get another mouth to feed due to my extremely low income and inability to care for an unplanned family. The government and I did not have to contend with bringing up a child that would have been born unhealthy or deformed due to a variety of predisposing factors, both hereditary and environmental, such as being on the pill when the pregnancy occurred, being a smoker, etc. 

The potential for abuse – greatly increased when non-natural parents are involved in a child’s care and upbringing – was eliminated.  The short-term pain of having an abortion would never match the long-term suffering of  spending a lifetime wondering whether or not the child I had brought into the world would be wanted and well-cared for by the adoptive parents, with whom I would never interact, and who are at higher risk for abusing than are natural parents. Research on the emotional well-being of adoptive children (at the time that I needed an abortion) strongly indicated that adoptive children suffered a great deal more severe psychiatric problems than did those who live with their natural parents. The child was spared not knowing anything about its hereditary health risks, true family history. The child did not have to wonder how much it pained me to let him or her go, and whether or not he or she was in fact a wanted child from the start.

It was MY body and MY choice and MY struggle.