Norma Jean Serena

Norma Jean Serena, a Native American (Creek/Shawnee) woman living in Apollo, Pennsylvania with her 3 children was a victim of sterilization abuse in 1970. Though Ms. Serena does not recall having signed the mandatory consent form (nor was one ever provided by the hospital at trial), the attending physician stated that he had explained the operation and felt convinced that she understood him.

This highly questionable “consent” was given by Ms. Serena the day after welfare case workers removed her children from the home under pretenses that were later determined by a jury to be false. This “consent” was given after days of being unfairly disparaged as an unfit and neglectful mother by case workers.

At trial Ms Serena was assisted by the Council of Three Rivers Indian Center in Pittsburgh in suing Armstrong County for the return of her children from foster care. She was awarded $17,000 damages for the removal of her children,who were ordered to be returned to her custody. It has since come to light that there was no actual medical basis for the sterilization procedures.

An excerpt from Ms. Serena’s “Statement of Need for Therapeutic Sterilization” in the hospital file reads “We find from observation and examination of Norma Serena that she is suffering from the following ailment of condition”…’socio-economic reasons’… and that another pregnancy in our opinion, would be inadvisable. Therefore, we are of the opinion that it is medically necessary to perform the sterilization.”

After being disparaged as a mother, and in the midst of the enormous stress of losing her children to the welfare system, Ms. Serena was encouraged to undergo sterilization for what she thought were medical reasons. Only years later did she discover that she had actually been sterilized because she was poor.


Chicago Committee to End Sterilization Abuse (CCESA). 1977. “Sterilization Abuse: A Task for the Women’s Movement”(January-1977). Available online:<<a href=””><font color=”#d8d7d3″></font></a>&gt; Accessed: November 20, 2007.


~ by Serena on November 25, 2007.

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