Democrats to investigate forced surgery claims in Georgia

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Dawn Wooten, left, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, speaks at a Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 news conference in Atlanta protesting conditions at the immigration jail. Wooten says authorities denied COVID-19 tests to immigrants, performed questionable hysterectomies and shredded records in a complaint filed to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)

OCILLA, Ga. – Leading congressional Democrats reacted furiously Tuesday to lightly substantiated claims that immigrants held at a detention center in Georgia are undergoing questionable hysterectomies.

In a complaint filed Monday, a nurse alleges that the Irwin County Detention Center performed questionable hysterectomies, refused to test detainees for COVID-19 and shredded medical records.

A top medical official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement “vehemently” disputing the claims, saying only two women have been referred for hysterectomies from the facility since 2018.

The statement came after Democrats seized on nurse's allegations that a gynecologist she called the “uterus collector” was performing “mass hysterectomies” — declaring they would investigate the matter.

A follow-up news conference Tuesday in Atlanta provided little information to substantiate the claims. Lawyers for the nurse, Dawn Wooten, refused to release her full statement that she made to the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General. She declined to take questions after making a statement with no reference to mass hysterectomies.

Wooten worked full-time as a licensed practical nurse at the immigration jail until July, when she was demoted.

Dr. Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said both surgeries had been approved by ICE officials.

“To be clear, medical care decisions concerning detainees are made by medical personnel, not by law enforcement personnel,” Rivera said in the statement. “Detainees are afforded informed consent, and a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed against a detainee’s will.”