According to the Los Angelos Times:
Between 1909 and 1964, more than 20,000 people in California were robbed of their reproductive abilities through a state program of forced sterilization. Under the misleading guise of "race betterment," doctors at California's state hospitals sterilized those who were considered "unfit to propagate."
The origins of California's forced-sterilization program lie in the misnamed eugenics movement of the early 20th century. The term means "good breeding" and stemmed from efforts to improve plant and livestock breeds. But those who believed that "degenerates" and the "feeble-minded" should be prevented from having child- ren launched campaigns for state laws to permit the sterilization of people with such deficiencies.
In 1907, Indiana became the first state to pass a forced-sterilization law, and California followed suit in 1909. Thirty states ultimately enacted such laws, and some 64,000 people -- most of them poor, young women -- were subjected to the surgeon's knife without their consent.