Madrigal v. Quiligan


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Madrigal v. Quilligan was an important case during the Chicano movement throughout California, as well as the women’s movement for better reproductive rights. The case was built around two questions; Did the doctors perform tubal ligations without consent? Did doctors single out Latina mothers for the procedures?  

In 1097, the first compulsory sterilization law was passed in Indiana which was motivated by the idea of eugenics with many similar laws being passed in the near future. THe sterilizations were first aimed at the mentally ill and prisoners, but the sterilizations would then be targeting the women of lower-income families and of immigrant status with the main group being Hispanic or Latina women. Sterilizations of the targeted group of Hispanic or Latina women could be seen in California, whose Public Health Department performed ⅓ of all sterilizations that occurred in the United States. The court case brought up what occurred during the 1970s and how the government felt that they were doing the country a deed by controlling the population growth of certain groups.

The case was brought upon the courts by 10 women who were filing a class-action suit againstt the L.A. County doctors, the state, and Federal Government for sterilizing them without their consent. This case was one of the first to use the precedent of Roe v. Wade, to support the women’s right to have and raise children in any form that they would like. The women lost with the court favoring on the side of the doctors, saying that the doctors performed the sterilizations in good faith and that the problem was just miscommunication between the patients and doctors. The only changes that were made after the case were that the consent forms had to be in Spanish and English, patients under 21 had 75 hours to decide, and welfare benefits would not be taken away if a woman had a tubal ligation.

Why was this court case so important? This case had many different aspects and impacted many different groups with cultural aspects and views on economic status in the United States. The women who were immigrants from Mexico faced extra problems at home after being sterilized as the Mexican culture as well as other central and south American cultures put a woman’s worth on how many children she has given birth to. The government also proved that their is a stigma surrounding lower-class families and the feds and doctors decided it was time to take it into their own hands and lower the birth rate of the poor. The main point that has come from this case is that women should be the only one who can make a final decision on their reproductive health, others can have an opinion, but the woman has the final say.


Accessed Sources

Anderson, Tre’vell. “‘No Más Bebés’ Revives 1975 Forced-sterilization Lawsuit in L.A.” LA Times. LA Times, 6–12 2015. Web. 5–10 2016. <;.

Valdes, Marcela. “When Doctors Took ‘Family Planning’ Into Their Own Hands .” New York Times. New York Times, 1 Feb. 2016. Web. 5–10 2016. <;.

Montgomery, David. “Sterilized Against Their Will in a Los Angeles Hospital: Latinas Tell the Story in a New Film.” Washington Post. Washington Post, 01-10. Web. 5–10 2016. <;.






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