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Helen Rodriguez-Trias

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 26 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:242

Public health activist who improved the quality of health care for women around the world

Helen Rodriguez-Trias began her career as a leader of a student strike at the University of Puerto Rico while she was an undergraduate there. An inveterate grassroots activist and organiser, she led the campaign to expose sterilisation abuse in Puerto Rico, where it was rampant. Rodriguez-Trias viewed sterilisation abuse as a practice built on a colonial perspective. Outsiders considered Puerto Rican women as a legitimate group for testing contraceptives and controlling women's sexuality and reproduction, while the elite in Puerto Rico permitted both practices.

“About 30% of women of reproductive age were sterilised,” said Richard Levins, John Rock professor of population sciences in the department of population and international health at Harvard University School of Public Health, who worked with Rodriguez-Trias in Puerto Rico. “Women were usually asked to sign a consent right after the delivery, in a strange place, …

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