This Film Showcases the Women Who Fought Against Forced Sterilization in the U.S.

No Más Bebés documents this shocking piece of history.

No Más Bebés, which premieres tonight on PBS, is a film that documents the heartbreaking and largely untold story of the forced sterilization of Latinas in Los Angeles County in the 1960s. The documentary follows the case of Madrigal v. Quilligan, a federal class-action lawsuit filed by 10 Latinas who were subjected to tubal ligation procedures during childbirth that left them sterile. The procedures were performed under the auspices of a family planning initiative which aimed to drive down fertility rates among the poor. A report in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 20,000 of these procedures were performed between the years 1909 and 1979. Women were often compelled to consent to these procedures under extreme stress.

“Some of them signed in the midst of labor,” said Antonia Hernández, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit in 1975. “Some of them don’t even remember signing.”

The documentary highlights the stories of four women in particular—Consuelo Hermosillo, Maria Hurtado, Dolores Madrigal, and Maria Figueroa—all of whom were subjected to tubal ligation procedures at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in the 1960s. A young intern in the maternity ward named Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld collected evidence that women were being pressured into tubal ligations that they didn’t want.

Dolores Madrigal and Antonia Hernández at a press conference about the lawsuit

The judge ruled in the hospital’s favor, arguing that the forced sterilizations could be attributed to a “breakdown in communications” between the women and their doctors. The film’s creators, however, argue that women were misled about what they were signing, and forced to sign while they were in extreme pain. And because LAC-USC’s patients were predominantly black and Mexican and from disprivileged backgrounds, these misguided “family planning” policies disproportionately victimized women from lower-income populations.

“Different people in the audience will read [the doctors] different ways, but our intention was really to let both sides tell their story,” filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña told Grist. “And it’s interesting that you also have doctors who had very good intentions, but there were all these kind of systemic forces that were at work … And there were all these different levels of accountability. [But] I’m sure there were doctors who had these attitudes about race, or women, or low-income women, and they thought it was their responsibility to lower the birthrate of the poor.”

A protest against forced sterilization in the 1970s. Photo by Ava Helms.

Tajima-Peña says this story is a vital, and often forgotten, piece of reproductive rights history in the United States, and she ties that struggle to the contemporary politics of reproductive care.

“It just boils down to: Who controls my body?” she told Grist. “Women [should be] making that decision. In the whole debate over defunding Planned Parenthood, I can’t remember a time where a woman who actually uses those clinics and services was at the table, and shouldn’t they be?”

No Más Bebés airs on PBS on Monday, Feb. 1, at 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT.


One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.

It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less

McDonalds sells a lot of coffee. Over a billion cups a year, to be exact. All that coffee leads to a lot of productive mornings, but it also leads to a lot of waste. Each year, millions of pounds of coffee chaff (the skin of the coffee beans that comes off during roasting) ends up getting turned into mulch. Some coffee chaff just gets burned, leading to an increase in CO2.

Now, that chaff is going to get turned into car parts. Ford is incorporating coffee chaff from McDonalds coffee into the headlamps of some cars. Ford has been using plastic and talc to make its headlamps, but this new process will reduce the reliance on talc, a non-renewable mineral. The chaff is heated to high temperatures under low oxygen and mixed with plastic and other additives. The bioplastic can then be formed into shapes.

Keep Reading Show less
via Wikimedia Commons

Nike has made a name for itself creating shoes for playing basketball, tennis, and running. But, let's be honest, how many people who wear Air Jordans or Lebrons actually play basketball versus watching it on television?

Now, Nike is releasing a new pair of shoes created for everyday heroes that make a bigger difference in all of our lives than Michael Jordan or Lebron James, medical professionals — nurses, doctors, and home healthcare workers.

Nike designed the shoe after researching medical professionals at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon to create the perfect one for their needs.

Keep Reading Show less