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Reproductive Rights: “No Mas Bebes” Documentary


The documentary “No Mas Bebes” tells a frightening story of Latin American women being sterilized at Los Angeles County hospital without their consent after they gave birth to children. When the illegal actions of doctors were revealed, the mothers who were the victims together with a brave young Chicana lawyer and evidence collected from hospital records by a doctor who blew the whistle managed to mount a civil rights lawsuit.

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The basic premise of the documentary is that every woman should have a reproductive choice. The reproductive justice movement struggles to provide every woman with a right to decide on having or not having children. This refection on “No Mas Bebes” documentary touches the issues of gender and sexuality, ethnic and racial problems in the context of reproduction, and analyzes the arguments presented in the movie.

Elements of Gender and Sexuality

The case investigated in the documentary explicitly reflects the issue of gender. Women became the victims of doctors who concluded they could decide who could or could not have more babies. Female patients were vulnerable when they were in labor and could not think of anything else but about the safety of their babies. As a result, they did not read the papers they were suggested to sign and involuntary agreed to have tubal ligation surgery that sterilized them. Evidently, this violation of women’s rights resulted in immediate Chicana feminist resistance as soon as an immoral and illegal behavior of doctors from Los Angeles County hospital. The elements of sexuality are more implicit in the plot of a documentary. Nevertheless, it fades away in the context of sterilization abuse.

Ethnic and Racial Issues

The documentary is directly related to racial and ethnic issues. One of the important aspects is the fight for access to health care by representatives of the Latino population in the United States. The problem of health care disparities is not new in this multinational country and usually ethnic minorities such as Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, or American Indians are deprived of high-quality care due to low income and the resulting lack of cost for health insurance. Consequently, they cannot afford private clinics and have to seek care at local hospitals that do not always provide high-quality care.

Still, even when representatives of ethnic minorities such as Latino on the whole and Mexican Americans in particular, are admitted to a healthcare facility, they frequently face discrimination and unequal treatment.

Another issue to mention in the context of “No Mas Bebes” documentary is the impact of ethnicity and race on the production of difference. People become ‘other’ due to the place of birth and origin or experiences they had. Thus, the women who were sterilized in the case that is discussed in the documentary were Mexican immigrants. Most of them worked at factories and some were housewives but all were mothers and wives (Perez). Although they lived and worked in the United States for years, they were ‘different’ and ‘other’ to some white citizens due to the origin or skin color. As a result, the doctors decided to interfere with their reproductive functions to have less ‘other’ people in the country.

Analysis of Arguments

The arguments put forth in the documentary by the women and the medical staff contribute to a controversy of this case. There are certain contradictions between the arguments of women depicted in the film and those of doctors and nurses. The actions of doctors and nursing staff were prompted by attempts to restrict the population of Mexican immigrants. They explained that they sterilized Mexican females who already had children.

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Moreover, they justify sterilization by the fact that they were warning the women about this surgery. Nevertheless, the majority of Mexican women did not speak English well and the doctors did not speak Spanish (Kolhatkar). Therefore, they could not understand the provided explanations both due to the language gap and to the lack of knowledge about the procedure. Also, the women admitted that they were threatened by the possible death of an unborn baby or squeezed by not providing painkillers in labor. On the whole, the arguments of women show that they were under pressure and could not make weighted decisions, which contradicts the arguments of medical staff who claim that the patients signed the necessary forms and agreed to be sterilized.

Summary and Conclusion

Summarizing, it should be mentioned that the main point presented in the documentary is that violation of any human rights is unacceptable. The particular focus is on the right of females to have as many babies as they want to have. The documentary can be related to past struggles about the reproductive rights that started with Roe v. Wade, a landmark legal decision of 1973 that legalized abortions, to contemporary movement for reproductive freedom.

The documentary is relevant today because despite significant progress in the aspect of reproductive rights, the issues of banning abortions or forced sterilization are still discussed in the society. Moreover, the experience described in the film should become an example of what should not be done under any conditions. A similar case can be avoided due to human rights’ education and further development of reproductive freedom movement.

Works Cited

Kolhatkar, Sonali. “‘No Mas Bebes’ Documentary Highlights History of Forced Sterilizations.” Truth Dig. Web.

Perez, Miriam Zolia. “Sterelization Abuse Documentary ‘No Mas Bebes’ Premiers on PBS.” Color Lines. Web.

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