Following last year’s revelation that female inmates in California prisons were being coercively sterilized as recently as 2010, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed a bill outlawing forced sterilization in the state’s lockups.
Last July, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed 148 female inmates received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules from 2006-2010. As many as 100 more women were subjected to the procedure dating back to the 1990s, according to CIR.
Doctors at the California Institution for Women in Corona and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla violated state rules requiring a medical review board to examine each case and signed up women for tubal ligations to be performed immediately following their babies’ births.
This weekend, a report revealing that African women immigrating to Israel were subjected to mandatory contraceptive injections, effectively amounting to forced (if temporary) sterilization made global headlines.
Some 130,000 Ethiopians, most of them Jewish, live in Israel. The community experiences higher poverty and unemployment rates than the rest of the country’s Jewish population. In the past decade, the birth rate among Ethiopian-Israelis has declined by at least 20 percent. Advocacy groups now claim this decline is the result of a birth control regimen forced upon Ethiopian immigrant women.
According to an article in Haaretz, an Israeli news source, one Ethiopian immigrant said that the doctors who injected her claimed that “people who frequently give birth suffer.” While it is possible, if highly unlikely, that doctors genuinely had the women’s health in mind when they forcibly injected them with contraceptives, there is no excuse for depriving women sovereignty over their own reproductive choices.
Israel has acknowledged the issue (without admitting any wrongdoing) and has vowed institutional changes in healthcare for immigrants. By decree of Israel’s health minister, gynecologists have been ordered “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.” Still, intense scrutiny should be applied by women’s groups and international organizations to make sure these changes are implemented in full. Moreover, more attention must be paid to the plight of vulnerable African immigrants around the world.
That Israel should allegedly engage in this activity is particularly shocking, considering the practice was widely used by the Germans throughout the Shoah. While the scale and effects of these operations cannot be compared, Israel’s implicit intent to limit ‘burdensome’ (read: undesirable) portions of the population recalls the dark eugenics experiments of World War II.