The sterilization of Mexican-American women in Los Angeles in the 1970s is at the center of a new short film acquired by HBO. For Rosa, written and directed by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone, is inspired by the Madrigal Ten. The collective was made up of 10 Mexican-American women who underwent sterilization without informed consent, or through coercion at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in the 1970s. A whistleblower, Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld who worked at the hospital, reached out to civil rights organizations and attorney Antonia Hernández got involved. She worked with the victims in the civil rights class action lawsuit Madrigal v. Quilligan in 1978 representing the mostly non-English speaking Latinas from East LA, a predominantly Latino neighborhood, who lacked access to medical resources.
The film tells the story of Eva, a fictional mother, as she learns of her sterilization and joins the nine other women in the lawsuit against the hospital. In the trailer we see Eva in the throes of labor pains calling for her husband in Spanish and then asked to sign paperwork. Though the character is fictional, that is what happened to Dolores Madrigal, who claimed the doctors pressured her into signing sterilization consent forms while she was in labor. Rosenfeld’s testimony exposed Dr. Quilligan’s malpractice allegedly he targeted low-income minority women working under the belief of Eugenics rooted in white supremacy where BIPOC and people with disabilities were targeted.
“We’re extremely excited that HBO is giving us the platform to share For Rosa with the world,” executive producer Chuey Martinez. “40 years later, mothers and women of color are still fighting for reproductive justice. With this film, we honor the Madrigal Ten and the self-determination of Latinx women, whose stories hardly ever get told with this level of visibility.”
The California federal court ruled in favor of the doctors and held that sterilizations were the result of miscommunication and language barriers. Though they lost the case, the Madrigal Ten was the impetus for the California Department of Health to implement new sterilization procedures including bilingual informational materials on sterilization. The State of California also revoked their sterilization law, which had enabled over 20,000 unauthorized sterilization operations to occur.
The film stars Melinna Bobadilla (Orange is the New Black, Grand Hotel) as Eva, Idalia Valles(Queen of the South) Chicana attorney Jessica, and Rick Mancía (East Los High, NCIS). In addition to having an all Latinx cast, the crew for the film was predominantly female and Latinx making a truly representative projects behind and in front of the camera. It’s set to premiere on HBO Latino and will be available to stream on HBO Max in May.