Israel Admits Giving Ethiopian Jew Immigrants Birth Control Injections without Consent
After years of denial, the Israeli government has admitted to injecting unwitting Ethiopian Jewish women who immigrate to Israel with a potentially dangerous birth control drug.
Haaretz reports that the Israeli Health Ministry, which had previously denied the highly unethical practice, has now ordered gynecologists to stop administering the injections of the long-acting contraceptive drug Depo-Provera. A letter from the Israeli Ministry of Health to medical officials administering the contraceptive injections ordered doctors “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.”
Some of those ramifications include serious side effects, such as infertility and bone loss, that can be caused by taking Depo-Provera. The drug, which is manufactured by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, was the subject of a 2004 FDA ‘black box’ warning. According to one Israeli doctor, at least 10 percent of women who receive Depo-Provera injections develop side effects.
Suspicions surrounding the Israeli practice of giving contraceptive injections to Ethiopian women were first raised five years ago. More recently, investigative journalist Gal Gabbay interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to determine why birth rates among Ethiopian Jews who immigrated to Israel were uncharacteristically low. According to Gabbay, birth rates among those women had plummeted by nearly 50 percent over the past decade.
One of the women interviewed by Gabbay said that Israeli medical officials told them the shots were inoculations. “We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to,” the woman recalled. Some of the women were reportedly coerced or forced to take the shots while in transit camps in Ethiopia.
Under Israel’s Law of Return, Ethiopian Jews, who have roots dating back to ancient times, are allowed to emigrate to Israel with full citizenship rights. There are an estimated 120,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel today. But there is widespread racism and hostility toward Africans, mostly against undocumented immigrants but also against Jews, in Israeli society. Last year, Israeli authorities began expelling many Africans who entered the country illegally.
Sharona Eliahu Chai, an attorney for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), decried the “racist implications” of Israel’s contraception program.
“Findings from investigations into the use of Depo-Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics,” Eliahu Chai said. “The Ministry of Health’s director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines.”
>>A 2010 RT report on Israel’s forced contraception program:
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