Forced Sterilization for Inuit Women and Disabled Women

143 Inuit women in Greenland are suing Denmark over forced and non-consensual contraceptive implants in the 1960s and 1970s. According to these women, the Danish government allegedly had a program that aimed to decrease the population via forced sterilization. At the hands of “healthcare professionals,” these women had coil implants inserted (a type of contraceptive device that prevents sperm from reaching the egg) without their knowledge or without their consent.

Many of these women were teenagers at the time and did not know what was happening, all while those who should have cared for them took their fertility away. Each of the women are demanding 300,000 kroner ($44,000) in reparations. But just how many women were affected by this program?

Danish authorities report that 4,500 women and girls in Greenland were fitted with coil implants – without consent – between 1966 and 1970. The Health Minister, Sophie Lohde, described the situation as “deeply unfortunate” and said an independent investigation was underway to examine the extent of the issue and the results would be published next year. But the Inuit women, the oldest of whom is approaching 80, cannot wait that long for a report that may deny their experiences. So, they are suing, and they hope that justice will be served.

court of justice

Tragically, this is not the first time something like this has happened.

In Peru, for instance, over 22,000 men and 270,00 women were forcibly sterilized between 1996 and 2000 to limit birth rates among the impoverished. While then-president Alberto Fujimori claimed that these sterilizations occurred with the consent of the patients, thousands of women have clearly stated there was no voluntary consent involved. The complications from this procedure claimed the lives of 18 women, one of whom was Celia Ramos.

Ramos died only 19 days after her sterilization – a procedure she only agreed to when coerced (the health workers would visit her home frequently). Now, thousands of these women are taking their case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, demanding justice be done to those responsible for their fertility being taken away.

The story is similar in Canada, where thousands of indigenous women continue to be forcibly sterilized today. There is very limited data on how widespread the issue is in Canada, but an estimate is that at least 12,000 women were sterilized since the 70s. In much of the European Union, it remains legal to sterilize disabled individuals. Rosario Ruiz has a 67% intellectual disability and never thought she would be a mother – until she fell in love with Antonio.

Antonio also has an intellectual disability. Rosario’s parents would not allow her to have children, so they threatened her with never seeing Antonio again and putting her in an institution if she did not go through with sterilization. Rosario did not receive the information she needed about the procedure or the effects, and so no informed consent could take place. Since her coerced procedure, she has felt “empty every day,” having had her chance of children cruelly taken away.

negative pregnancy test next to baby clothes

It is disheartening to hear about how women all around the world are losing their ability to have children at the hands of “medical professionals.”

HLI works hard all around the world to warn about the dangers of contraception and birth control. In many cases, HLI’s affiliates are able to help women achieve pregnancy or postpone it naturally for grave reasons. In this way, we hope to decrease the number of abuses that occur, like forced sterilization. In the case of those who have already suffered from forced sterilization, we offer our prayers and sacrifices so that they may find healing and peace, that those responsible will be brought to justice, and that these human rights abuses never happen again.

Please join with us in praying for the men and women affected by forced sterilization.

Marisa Cantu has an MS in political science and international affairs with a BA in political science and has also studied international studies and French. She has a strong background in nonprofit work, research, writing, and policy proposal and analysis.

In her free time, Marisa enjoys painting, writing, cooking, spending time with her husband and playing with her dog.

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