Film poster for "No Más Bebés" with woman holding bucket inside house and city skyline.
Film poster for "No Más Bebés" with woman holding bucket inside house and city skyline.
Mexican-American women fighting for justice after being sterilized against their will


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EMMY® Nominated | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ★★★1/2 - Video Librarian | BEST DOCUMENTARY 2016 - Video Librarian

Latina Studies • Reproductive Rights • Civil Rights • American History • Medical Ethics • Race & Ethnicity

Date of Completion: 2015 | Run Time: 53 & 79 minutes​​ | Language: English & Spanish with English subtitles | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Directors: Renee Tajima-Peña & Virginia Espino 

NO MÁS BEBÉS tells the story of Mexican immigrant mothers who sued doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County General Hospital during the 1970s. Alongside an intrepid, 26-year-old Chicana lawyer and armed with hospital records secretly gathered by a whistle-blowing young doctor, these mothers stood up to powerful institutions in the name of justice. Their landmark 1975 civil rights lawsuit, Madrigal v. Quilligan, asserted that a woman’s right to bear a child is guaranteed under the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. This EMMY® nominated film lifts up the significant contribution of Chicana activists who sought to redefine reproductive politics — not only as the right to abortion, but also the human right to bear a child. Their demand that the needs of poor women and women of color be heard resonates powerfully, as women’s reproductive choice is under attack and the reproductive justice movement struggles to ensure that all women have a voice in the debate.

Video Librarian ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Reviewed by Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)
"Renee Tajima-Peña’s PBS-aired documentary focuses on a shameful chapter in California history involving one of the most horrifying denials of civil rights imaginable. During the 1960s and early ‘70s, the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center tricked and bullied Mexican immigrant women who gave birth through emergency cesarean sections into signing documents authorizing tubal ligation surgery that effectively sterilized them. In 1975, 10 of these women joined in the Madrigal v. Quilligan lawsuit that sought damages from the hospital, the state, and the federal government. No Más Bebés interviews several of the women behind the lawsuit, who talk about the circumstances that resulted in their loss of reproductive rights—including doctors withholding pain medication until they signed consent forms—and their shock when they discovered what had happened. The medical community argued that the procedures were undertaken because doctors felt the women faced health problems, and most had already borne several children. The film points out that during this period a widespread fear of overpopulation resulted in federal funding for population control studies. But limits on childbearing were never suggested for white women with large families, which raises the shocking specter of racially motivated eugenics. A disturbing and heartbreaking documentary, this is highly recommended."

California State University San Marcos | Michelle A. Holling, Ph.D., Professor of Communication and Ethnic Studies Program
"No Más Bebés allows viewers to hear first-hand from Chicana plaintiffs thereby illustrating the power of testimonio--the individual and collective retelling of racialized, gendered, and classed wrongs--to document a horrendous medical practice enacted against a population of Chicanas. Their voices, which contribute to the herstory of Chicana feminism and activism, augmented by interviews with key figures surrounding the case add depth and complexity to viewers’ understanding of the social forces Chicanas and their attorneys contended with. This documentary is a must see for anyone interested in matters of social justice, ethics, reproductive justice, gender-women's and ethnic studies."

The Washington Post | Reviewed by David Montgomery
"It does not spoil the ending to say that the case helped lead to bilingual consent forms and bilingual counseling. Yet in those contested times, even the remedies were difficult to agree on. Some Chicana activists favored a waiting period before sterilization could take place, while some white feminists considered sterilization-on-demand to be a reproductive right. What is undebatable is the emotional pain of the women who unwittingly lost the ability to have more children. They mourn for the lives that never came to be. Many mourned in secret: Their sterilization was a source of shame that they hid even from the children they had before the procedure. Some of those children, now adults, found out only when the filmmakers came to speak to their mothers."

KCET | Reviewed by Betty Martín
"Largely based on Espino's research, No Mas Bebés shows how Chicana feminists contributed to the concept of reproductive justice by understanding the experiences of the Mexican immigrant women that bore the case. During this time, many white feminists were calling for abortion and sterilization on demand as a legal right. Madrigal vs. Quilligan showed that for other women what was actually at risk, was the right to bear a child. "This was the precedent of informing the women's rights movement, that there were these other issues taking place at the intersection of gender, race and class," Espino asserts. Recent events speak to the relevancy of the film today. The sterilization of women in California prisons in 2010, or a current law, known as Family Cap, which denies women on welfare additional assistance after the birth of another child, demonstrate the challenges poor women face in particular. 'No Mas Bebés' continues the ongoing conversation on women's reproductive rights."

Indiewire | Reviewed by Katie Walsh
"The fight for reproductive justice is a fight for humanity, a fight to define personal worth through the ability to have autonomy over one’s body. Documentary 'No Mas Bebes,' directed by Renee Tajima-Peña, is a beautiful depiction of this, and a definitive reinserting of the voices and experiences of women of color into this ongoing struggle...This incredibly moving story details how this lawsuit brought about regulatory change and exposes this all-too-recent horrific and biased practice. These women, sterilized against their consent in their early 20s and 30s demonstrate incredible strength of character in fighting for the right of all women to choose how and when they want to have children.”

Films for the Feminist Classroom | Reviewed by Barbara Gurr
"No Màs Bebés provides a critically necessary intervention into mainstream reproductive rights discourse in several ways. Its focus on the racialized, classed experiences of Mexican immigrant women in southern California highlights the complexities of the abortion debates as they occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s; while some women fought for the right to obtain a safe abortion and contraception, others were stripped of the right to have children. These tensions continue to be relevant in many ways today, as surgical sterilizations remain disproportionately high in communities of color and poor communities."

Renee Tajima-Peña is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker whose work focuses on the Asian American experience, and issues of race, immigration, gender, and social justice. Her films include No Más Bebés (No More Babies), the story of Mexican immigrant mothers who fought for reproductive justice after they were sterilized while giving birth at the Los Angeles county hospital during the 1970s. My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha is a personal and irreverent road documentary in search of Asian American identity, In the film Calavera Highway, she turns the camera to her husband, Armando Peña, on his journey to carry his mother’s ashes back to South Texas and reunite with his fragmented family.

Tajima-Peña was series producer of PBS’s ground-breaking Asian Americans, the first ever docuseries on Asian American history, and co-producer/director of the classic documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin? Her other work includes a portrait of the new generation of Asian American labor organizers, Labor Women, the “Mexico Story” of the docuseries The New Americans, and multi-media projects on the legacy of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the short collaboration with Giant Robot, Skate Manzanar, Building History 3.0, an interactive exploration of that history through Minecraft, and the production collective Nikkei Democracy Project.

Tajima-Peña’s films have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, Sundance Film Festival, and the Whitney Biennial with retrospectives at the Flaherty International Film Seminar and the Virginia Film Festival. She has been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, USA Broad Fellowship, Alpert Award in the Arts for Film/ Video, a Peabody, and a Dupont Columbia Award. She teaches social documentary at UCLA, where she is a professor of Asian American Studies, director of the Center for EthnoCommunications and an endowed chair in Japanese American Studies. She is the founder of the Graduate Program in Social Documentation at UCSC.

Virginia Espino is the daughter of Mexican parents. She grew up in the barrios of northeastern Los Angeles where she currently resides. She holds a PhD in 20th Century U.S. History with a focus on the Chicanx experience from Arizona State University. She is an oral and public historian whose research interests include the intersection of class, race, and gender in working class culture and identity formation. Much of her work over the past 10 years includes the recovery of lost or hidden histories through the practice of oral history interviewing, processing, and making those histories available to the public at large. Espino is the Producer and Lead Historian on the award winning documentary, NO MÁS BEBÉS. Based in part on her dissertation research, NO MÁS BEBÉS investigates the history of coercive sterilization at the Los Angeles-USC Medical Center during the 1970s. Her research was published in Las Obreras: Chicana Politics of Work and Family, edited by Vicki L. Ruiz, and the Chicanx journal, Aztlán. She currently lectures for Chicana, Chicano and Central American Studies and Labor Studies at UCLA and serves on the board of the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.