When BELLY OF THE BEAST director Erika Cohn first began discussing her film with Women Make Movies, she told us her primary goal was to get reparations for survivors of forced sterilizations in California’s women’s prisons. On July 13, 2021, barely more than a year since the film premiered at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved a $7.5 million budget request to compensate survivors of state sponsored forced sterilizations. California is the third state to provide monetary compensation to survivors who were sterilized under state eugenics laws, following in the footsteps of North Carolina and Virginia.
Through the 20th century, more than 60,000 people have been sterilized under state eugenics programs nationwide. Black, indigenous, Latinx, incarcerated people, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty were disproportionately targeted for sterilization. Most recently, women in ICE detention centers in Georgia alleged that they underwent invasive and unnecessary procedures, including hysterectomies, making it clear that forced and involuntary sterilizations have never stopped in the U.S.
We are in awe of the team of activists that have been working to achieve reparations in California for more than two decades, and the team at Women Make Movies is honored to play a small part in bringing awareness to this important issue by distributing BELLY OF THE BEAST, the film that helped raise public awareness and increased pressure for legislative change. Celebrate this historic victory by purchasing or hosting a screening of this important film. A Peabody Award Nominee, a New York Times Critics Pick and called a “thrilling legal drama” by the LA Times, this powerful documentary exposes a pattern of modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice while also telling an inspiring story of human resilience.