The structural vulnerability of detained migrants leaves them susceptible, as has historically been the case for many marginalized communities, to a range of reproductive abuses, as well as to medical neglect and inadequate care. Generations of resistance and advocacy by victims and activists has made clear that such allegations must be taken seriously. The systems that give rise to such abuses are often driven by dangerous ideas about racial hierarchies and eugenic interventions.
Today’s allegations of coerced hysterectomies and sterilization echo the history of eugenics and neo-eugenics. Prominent eugenicist Charles Davenport defined the practice as “the science of the improvement of the human race by better breeding.” Eugenics gained popularity in the United States in the early 20th century, appealing broadly across the political spectrum because it promised a scientific solution to social problems stemming from industrialization, urbanization, immigration and changing gender norms. The theory held that the human race