Israel uproar over ‘forced’ birth control

By Ben Hartman, January 31, 2013
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Certain sections of the Israeli media have renewed accusations that doctors have been allowed to give contraceptive drugs to Ethiopian women without their consent after the head of the Health Ministry, Ron Gamzu, appeared to supply evidence that such a practice could be in place.

In December, Israeli Educational Television (IET) broadcast interviews with Ethiopian women who said they were given the injections in clinics run by Jewish organisations in Ethiopia and later at clinics in Israel.

The women said they were told that if they did not take them, they would not be allowed to emigrate to Israel.

This week, Mr Gamzu wrote to Israel’s four major health clinics instructing them to stop prescribing long-term contraceptive Depo Provera to Ethiopian women.

The letter stressed that it was written “without taking a stance or establishing any facts regarding the allegations raised in this matter”. It added that to receive the injection, women must meet a doctor, express a desire to prevent pregnancy, and then have its side-effects explained.

Mr Gamzu’s directive came in response to a letter from a lawyer at the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (Acri), which called on the ministry to instruct HMOs to stop the practice.

The letter from Acri also states that it is unclear where or why this practice started, and voices concern that it could be seen as a policy to reduce the Ethiopian birth rate.

According to the IET report, the practice has led to a 50 per cent drop in the birth rate among Ethiopians in Israel over the past decade.

Health Ministry Spokeswoman Einav Shimron Greenbaum said that there was never any policy to give Ethiopian women contraceptives against their will, and that the directive was sent out by Mr Gamzu because “there were so many rumours swirling around so the General Secretary wrote that, from here on, clinics must ensure all women know what they’re being given”.

Last updated: 1:26pm, January 31 2013