Compulsory sterilization, also known as forced sterilization (or compulsory sterilisation respectively forced sterilisation – see spelling differences), programs are government policies which attempt to force people to undergo surgical or other sterilization. The reasons governments implement sterilization programs vary in purpose and intent. In the first half of the 20th century, several such programs were instituted in countries around the world, usually as part of eugenics programs intended to prevent the reproduction and multiplication of members of the population considered to be carriers of defective, more often than not different and not inferior in a natural combination racial genetic traits.
Managing population growth; sex discrimination; 'sex-normalizing' surgeries of intersex persons; and Statute of Rome attempted[clarification needed] and other genocide acts against ethnic minorities, the HIV positive, and the mentally disabled have also been reasons compulsive sterilization has been used. There are countries where transgender people are required to undergo sterilization before gaining legal recognition of their gender. This is not to be confused with forced sterilization not associated with a likely genocidal (re.: Statute of Rome) government program.[clarification needed] However the report of United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment states that LGBT people often suffer the medical abuses or forced surgeries (including female genital mutilation and male genital mutilation) despite the Principles 17 and 18 of the Yogyakarta Principles.
In May 2014, the World Health Organization, OHCHR, UN Women, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF issued a joint statement on Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization, An interagency statement. The report references the involuntary sterilization of a number of specific population groups. They include:
- Women, especially in relation to coercive population control policies, and particularly including women living with HIV, indigenous and ethnic minority girls and women. Indigenous and ethnic minority women often face "wrongful stereotyping based on gender, race and ethnicity".
- Disabled people, often perceived as sexually inactive. Women with intellectual disabilities are "often treated as if they have no control, or should have no control, over their sexual and reproductive choices". Other rationales include menstrual management for the benefit of careers.
- Intersex persons, who "are often subjected to cosmetic and other non-medically indicated surgeries performed on their reproductive organs, without their informed consent or that of their parents, and without taking into consideration the views of the children involved", often as a "sex-normalizing" treatment.
- Transgender persons, "as a prerequisite to receiving gender-affirmative treatment and gender-marker changes".
The report recommends a range of guiding principles for medical treatment, including ensuring patient autonomy in decision-making, ensuring non-discrimination, accountability and access to remedies.
Alternatives to compulsory sterilization
Human population control
Human population control is the practice of artificially altering the rate of growth of a human population. Historically, human population control has been implemented by limiting the population's birth rate, usually by government mandate, and has been undertaken as a response to factors including high or increasing levels of poverty, environmental concerns, religious reasons, and overpopulation. While population control can involve measures that improve people's lives by giving them greater control of their reproduction, some programs have exposed them to exploitation.
Widespread or systematic forced sterilization has been recognized as a Crime against Humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in the explanatory memorandum. This memorandum defines the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
Two Canadian provinces (Alberta and British Columbia) performed compulsory sterilization programs in the 20th century with eugenic aims. Canadian compulsory sterilization operated via the same overall mechanisms of institutionalization, judgment, and surgery as the American system. However, one notable difference is in the treatment of non-insane criminals. Canadian legislation never allowed for punitive sterilization of inmates.
The Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta was enacted in 1928 and repealed in 1972. In 1995, Leilani Muir sued the Province of Alberta for forcing her to be sterilized against her will and without her permission in 1959. Since Muir’s case, the Alberta government has apologized for the forced sterilization of over 2,800 people. Nearly 850 Albertans who were sterilized under the Sexual Sterilization Act were awarded C$142 million in damages.
In 1978, Chinese authorities became concerned with the possibility of a baby boom that the country could not handle, and they initialized the one-child policy. In order to effectively deal with the complex issues surrounding childbirth, the Chinese government placed great emphasis on family planning. Because this was such an important matter, the government thought it needed to be standardized, and so to this end laws were introduced in 2002. These laws uphold the basic tenets of what was previously put into practice, outlining the rights of the individuals and outlining what the Chinese government can and cannot do to enforce policy.
However, recently accusations have been raised from groups such as Amnesty International, who have claimed that practices of compulsory sterilization have been occurring for people who have already reached their one child quota. These practices run contrary to the stated principles of the law, and seem to differ on a local level. An especially egregious example, according to Amnesty International, has been occurring in Puning City, Guangdong Province. The stated goal of the sterilization drive in this city in China was to meet with family planning targets that were outlined by the government in the Population and Family Planning Law of 2002. This drive, also known as the Iron Fist Campaign, also is said to have used coercive methods in order to ensure that close to 10,000 women were sterilized, including detaining elderly family members. It is unclear whether support of the increase of the now 90% Han Chinese majority here plays a role
The Chinese government does not seem to be unaware of these discrepancies in policy implementation on a local level. For example, The National Population and Family Planning Commission put forth in a statement that, “Some persons concerned in a few counties and townships of Linyi did commit practices that violated law and infringed upon legitimate rights and interests of citizens while conducting family planning work.” This statement comes in reference to some charges of forced sterilization and abortions in Linyi city of Shandong Province. However, it remains unclear to what extent the government has prosecuted or disciplined the officials in charge of family planning in the country.
The policy requires a "social compensation fee" for those who have more than the legal number of children. According to Forbes editor Heng Shao, critics claims this fee is a toll on the poor but not the rich. There are cases registered in the Chinese legal system (cf. Si Bu Tuo Zhe Renmin) which could prove infractions in the field.
Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic
Czechoslovakia carried out a policy to sterilize some Romani women, starting in 1973. In various cases the sterilization was agreed upon, often in exchange for social welfare benefits or was given by the lack of education. The dissidents of the Charter 77 denounced it in 1977–78 as a "genocide", but the practice continued through the Velvet Revolution of 1989. A 2005 report by the Czech government's independent ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, identified dozens of cases of coercive sterilization between 1979 and 2001, and called for criminal investigations and possible prosecution against several health care workers and administrators, re Law on Atrocities relevant pre-1990, CR (ChR).
One of the first acts by Adolf Hitler after the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act of 1933 gave him de facto legal dictatorship over the German state was to pass the (Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses) in July 1933. The law was signed by Hitler himself, and over 200 eugenic courts were created specifically as a result of this law. Under it, all doctors in the Third Reich were required to report any patients of theirs who were deemed intellectually disabled, characterized mentally ill (including schizophrenia and manic depression), epileptic, blind, deaf, or physically deformed, and a steep monetary penalty was imposed for any patients who were not properly reported. Individuals suffering from alcoholism or Huntington's Disease could also be sterilized. The individual's case was then presented in front of a court of Nazi officials and public health officers who would review their medical records, take testimony from friends and colleagues, and eventually decide whether or not to order a sterilization operation performed on the individual, using force if necessary. Though not explicitly covered by the law, 400 mixed-race "Rhineland Bastards" were also sterilized beginning in 1937. The sterilization program went on until the war started, with about 600,000 people sterilized.
By the end of World War II, over 400,000 individuals were sterilised under the German law and its revisions, most within its first four years of being enacted. When the issue of compulsory sterilisation was brought up at the Nuremberg trials after the war, many Nazis defended their actions on the matter by indicating that it was the United States itself from whom they had taken inspiration. The Nazis had many other eugenics-inspired racial policies, including their "euthanasia" programme in which around 70,000 people institutionalised or suffering from birth defects were killed.
In the first part of the Showa era, Japanese governments promoted increasing the number of healthy Japanese, while simultaneously decreasing the number of people suffering from deemed mental retardation, disability, genetic disease and other conditions that led to inferiority in the Japanese gene pool.
The Leprosy Prevention laws of 1907, 1931 and 1953, permitted the segregation of patients in sanitariums where forced abortions and sterilization were common and authorized punishment of patients "disturbing peace". Under the colonial Korean Leprosy prevention ordinance, Korean patients were also subjected to hard labor.
The Race Eugenic Protection Law was submitted from 1934 to 1938 to the Diet. After four amendments, this draft was promulgated as a National Eugenic Law in 1940 by the Konoe government. According to Matsubara Yoko, from 1940 to 1945, sterilization was done to 454 Japanese persons under this law.
According to the Eugenic Protection Law (1948), sterilization could be enforced on criminals "with genetic predisposition to commit crime", patients with genetic diseases including mild ones such as total color-blindness, hemophilia, albinism and ichthyosis, and mental affections such as schizophrenia, manic-depression possibly deemed occurrent in their opposition and epilepsy, the sickness of Caesar. The mental sicknesses were added in 1952.
The right to legal sex change in case of transsexual has been approved by legislation in 2004. The legislation only allows the person who has no children in addition to having undergone the sex reassignment surgery. The condition is amended in 2008 to "those who has no child under 20 years old", but still sterilization and sex reassignment surgery is compulsory to legal sex change.
India's state of emergency between 1975 and 1977 included a family planning initiative that began in April 1976 through which the government hoped to lower India's ever increasing population. This program used propaganda and monetary incentives to, some may construe, inveigle citizens to get sterilized. People who agreed to get sterilized would receive land, housing, and money or loans. Because of this program, thousands of men received vasectomies and even more women received tubal ligations, both possibly reversible. However, the program focused more on sterilizing women than men. An article in The New York Times titled “For Sterilization, Target Is Women” states, “There were 114,426 vasectomies in India in 2002-03, and 4.6 million tubal ligations, the analogous operation on women, though ligation is a more complicated operation.” Son of the Prime Minister at the time Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi was largely blamed for what turned out to be a failed program. A strong backlash against any initiative associated with family planning followed the highly controversial program, which continues into the 21st century.
"Israel has admitted for the first time that Ethiopian Jewish immigrants were given birth-control injections, who subsequently denied their knowledge or consent. The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs "if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment." According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically." The director of the contraception programme, Dr Rick Hodes, published a letter explicitly denying that a programme of compulsory birth control took place. A subsequent investigation by the Israeli State Comptroller failed to find any evidence of coercion but did not interview the women concerned
In Peru, President Alberto Fujimori (in office from 1990 to 2000) has been accused of genocide and crimes against humanity as a result of a sterilization program put in place by his administration. During his presidency, Fujimori put in place a program of forced sterilizations against indigenous people (mainly the Quechuas and the Aymaras), in the name of a "public health plan", presented on July 28, 1995. The plan was principally financed using funds from USAID (36 million dollars), the Nippon Foundation, and later, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). On September 9, 1995, Fujimori presented a Bill that would revise the "General Law of Population", in order to allow sterilization. Several contraceptive methods were also legalized, all measures that were strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Catholic organization Opus Dei. In February 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) itself congratulated Fujimori on his success in controlling demographic growth.
On February 25, 1998, a representative for USAID testified before the U.S. government's House International Relations Committee, to address controversy surrounding Peru's program. He indicated that the government of Peru was making important changes to the program, in order to:
- Discontinue their campaigns in tubal ligations and vasectomies.
- Make clear to health workers that there are no provider targets for voluntary surgical contraception or any other method of contraception.
- Implement a comprehensive monitoring program to ensure compliance with family planning norms and informed consent procedures.
- Welcome Ombudsman Office investigations of complaints received and respond to any additional complaints that are submitted as a result of the public request for any additional concerns.
- Implement a 72-hour "waiting period" for people who choose tubal ligation or vasectomy. This waiting period will occur between the second counseling session and surgery.
- Require health facilities to be certified as appropriate for performing surgical contraception as a means to ensure that no operations are done in makeshift or substandard facilities.
In September 2001, Minister of Health Luis Solari launched a special commission into the activities of the Voluntary Surgical Contraception, initiating a Parliamentary commission tasked with inquiring into the "irregularities" of the program, and to put it on an acceptable footing. In July 2002, its Final Report ordered by the Minister of Health revealed that between 1995 and 2000, 331,600 women were sterilized, while 25,590 men submitted to vasectomies. The plan, which had the objective of diminishing the number of births in areas of poverty within Peru, was essentially directed at the indigenous people living in deprived areas (areas often involved in internal conflicts with the Peruvian government, as with the Shining Path guerilla group). Deputy Dora Núñez Dávila made the accusation in September 2003 that 400,000 indigenous people were sterilized during the 1990s. Documents proved that President Fujimori was informed, each month, of the number of sterilizations done, by his former Ministers of Health, Eduardo Yong Motta (1994–96), Marino Costa Bauer (1996–1999) and Alejandro Aguinaga (1999–2000). A study by sociologist Giulia Tamayo, Nada Personal (in English: Nothing Personal), showed that doctors were required to meet quotas. According to Le Monde diplomatique, "tubal ligation festivals" were organized through program publicity campaigns, held in the pueblos jóvenes (in English: shantytowns). In 1996 there were, according to official statistics, 81,762 tubal ligations performed on women, with a peak being reached the following year, with 109,689 ligatures, then only 25,995 in 1998.
On October 21, 2011, Peru’s Attorney General José Bardales decided to reopen an investigation into the cases, which had been halted in 2009 under the statute of limitations, after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that President Fujimori’s sterilization program involved crimes against humanity, which are not time-limited. It is unclear as to any progress in matter of the execution (debido ejécucion sumária) of the suspect in the course of any proof of their relevant accusations in the legal sphere of the constituted people in vindication of the rights of the people of South America (en el foro legal o del pueblo debido en reivindicácion del derecho del pueblo sul-americano). It may carry a parallel to any suspect cases for international investigation in any other continent, and be in the sphere of Medical Genocide.
In 2008, the Perm Krai ombudswoman Tatyana Margolina reported that 14 women with disabilities were subjected to compulsory medical sterilization in Ozyorskiy psychoneurological nursing home whose director was Grigory Bannikov. The sterilizations were performed not on the basis mandatory court decision appropriate for them, but only on the basis of the application by the guardian Bannikov. On 2 December 2010, the court has not found corpus delicti in the compulsory medical sterilizations performed by his consent. The order by the health minister of the Russian Federation that issued in 1993 and neatly determined the procedure of forced abortion and sterilization of women with disabilities was repealed by the head of Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation Tatyana Golikova in 2009. Therefore, now women can be subjected to compulsory sterilization without court decision, according to Tatyana Margolina, which may place some types of humanity within their nation at risk. In Russia, one of the supporters of preventive eugenics is the president of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia Yuri Savenko, who justifies forced sterilization of women, which is practiced in Moscow psychoneurological nursing homes, and states that “one needs a more strictly adjusted and open control for the practice of preventive eugenics, which, in itself, is, in its turn, justifiable.”
In South Africa, there have been multiple reports of HIV-positive women sterilized without their informed consent and sometimes without their knowledge.
The eugenistic legislation was enacted in 1934 and was formally abolished in 1976. According to the 2000 governmental report, 21,000 were estimated to have been forcibly sterilized, 6,000 were coerced into a 'voluntary' sterilization while the nature of a further 4,000 cases could not be determined. The Swedish state subsequently paid out damages to victims who contacted the authorities and asked for compensation. Of those sterilised 93 % were women.
In October 1999, Margrith von Felten suggested to the National Council of Switzerland in the form of a general proposal to adopt legal regulations that would enable reparation for persons sterilized against their will. According to the proposal, reparation was to be provided to persons who had undergone the intervention without their consent or who had consented to sterilization under coercion. According to Margrith von Felten:
|“||The history of eugenics in Switzerland remains insufficiently explored. Research programmes are in progress. However, individual studies and facts are already available. For example:
The report of the Institute for the History of Medicine and Public Health "Mental Disability and Sexuality. Legal sterilization in the Vaud Canton between 1928 and 1985" points out that coercive sterilizations took place until the 1980s, it is unclear if the ethnographic impact has been duly investigated and if Hun-descendant French have been affected, as well as prehistoric human descendant communities. The act on coercive sterilizations of the Vaud Canton was the first law of this kind in the European context.
Hans Wolfgang Maier, head of the Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich pointed out in a report from the beginning of the century that 70% to 80% of terminations were linked to sterilization by doctors. In the period from 1929 to 1931, 480 women and 15 men were sterilized in Zurich in connection with termination.
Following agreements between doctors and authorities such as the 1934 "Directive For Surgical Sterilization" of the Medical Association in Basle, eugenic indication to sterilization was recognized as admissible.
A statistical evaluation of the sterilizations performed in the Basle women's hospital between 1920 and 1934 shows a remarkable increase in sterilizations for a psychiatric indication after 1929 and a steep increase in 1934, when a coercive sterilization act came into effect in nearby National Socialist Germany.
A study by the Swiss Nursing School in Zurich, published in 1991, documents that 24 mentally disabled women aged between 17 and 25 years were sterilized between 1980 and 1987. Of these 24 sterilizations, just one took place at the young woman's request.
Having evaluated sources primarily from the 1930s (psychiatric files, official directives, court files, etc.), historians have documented that the requirement for free consent to sterilization was in most of cases not satisfied. Authorities obtained the "consent" required by the law partly by persuasion, and partly by enforcing it through coercion and threats. Thus the recipients of social benefits were threatened with removal of the benefits, women were exposed to a choice between placement in an institution or sterilization, and abortions were permitted only when women simultaneously consented to sterilization.
More than fifty years after ending the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany, in which racial murder, euthanasia and coerced sterilizations belonged to the political programme, it is clear that eugenics, with its idea of "life unworthy of life" and "racial purity" permeated even democratic countries. The idea that a "healthy nation" should be achieved through targeted medical/social measures was designed and politically implemented in many European countries and in the U.S.A in the first half of this century. It is a policy incomparable with the inconceivable horrors of the Nazi rule; yet it is clear that authorities and the medical community were guilty of the methods and measures applied, i.e. coerced sterilizations, prohibitions of marriages and child removals – serious violations of human rights.
Switzerland refused, however, to vote a reparations Act.
The United States was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics. The heads of the program were avid believers in eugenics and frequently argued for their program. It was shut down due to ethical problems. The principal targets of the American program were the intellectually disabled and the mentally ill, but also targeted under many state laws were the deaf, the blind, people with epilepsy, and the physically deformed. While the claim was that the focus was mainly the mentally ill and disabled, the definition of this during that time was much different than today's. At this time, there were many women that were sent to institutions under the guise of being “feeble-minded" because they were promiscuous or became pregnant while unmarried. According to the activist Angela Davis, women of predominantly ethnic minorities (such as Native Americans, as well as African-American women) were sterilized against their will in many states, often without their knowledge while they were in a hospital for other reasons (e.g. childbirth). For example, in Sunflower County Mississippi, 60% of black women living there were sterilized at Sunflower City Hospital without their permission.
Some sterilizations took place in prisons and other penal institutions, targeting criminality, but they were in the relative minority. In the end, over 65,000 individuals were sterilized in 33 states under state compulsory sterilization programs in the United States in all likelihood without due multi-ethnic and ethnic minority perspective.
The first state to introduce a compulsory sterilization bill was Michigan, in 1897, but the proposed law failed to pass. Eight years later Pennsylvania's state legislators passed a sterilization bill that was vetoed by the governor. Indiana became the first state to enact sterilization legislation in 1907, followed closely by California and Washington in 1909. Several other states followed, but such legislation remained controversial enough to be defeated in some cases, as in Wyoming in 1934. Sterilization rates across the country were relatively low, with the sole exception of California, until the 1927 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell which legitimized the forced sterilization of patients at a Virginia home for the intellectually disabled. In the wake of that decision, over 62,000 people in the United States, most of them women, were sterilized. The number of sterilizations performed per year increased until another Supreme Court case, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 1942, complicated the legal situation by ruling against sterilization of criminals if the equal protection clause of the constitution was violated. That is, if sterilization was to be performed, then it could not exempt white-collar criminals.
Most sterilization laws could be divided into three main categories of motivations: eugenic (concerned with heredity), therapeutic (based on the idea that sterilization could cure one of sexual traits such as masturbation or pedophilia), or punitive (as a punishment for criminals), though of course these motivations could be combined in practice and theory (sterilization of criminals could be both punitive and eugenic, for example). Buck v. Bell asserted only that eugenic sterilization was constitutional, whereas Skinner v. Oklahoma ruled specifically against punitive sterilization. Most operations only worked to prevent reproduction (such as severing the vas deferens in males), though some states (Oregon and North Dakota in particular) had laws which called for the use of castration. In general, most sterilizations were performed under eugenic statutes, in state-run psychiatric hospitals and homes for the mentally disabled. There was never a federal sterilization statute, though eugenicist Harry H. Laughlin, whose state-level "Model Eugenical Sterilization Law" was the basis of the statute affirmed in Buck v. Bell, proposed the structure of one in 1922.
After World War II, public opinion towards eugenics and sterilization programs became more negative in the light of the connection with the genocidal policies of Nazi Germany, though a significant number of sterilizations continued in a few states through the 1970s. The Oregon Board of Eugenics, later renamed the Board of Social Protection, existed until 1983, with the last forcible sterilization occurring in 1981. The U.S. commonwealth Puerto Rico had a sterilization program as well. Some states continued to have sterilization laws on the books for much longer after that, though they were rarely if ever used. California sterilized more than any other state by a wide margin, and was responsible for over a third of all sterilization operations. Information about the California sterilization program was produced into book form and widely disseminated by eugenicists E.S. Gosney and Paul B. Popenoe, which was said by the government of Adolf Hitler to be of key importance in proving that large-scale compulsory sterilization programs were feasible. In recent years, the governors of many states have made public apologies for their past programs beginning with Virginia and followed by Oregon and California. Few have offered to compensate those sterilized, however, citing that few are likely still living (and would of course have no affected offspring) and that inadequate records remain by which to verify them. At least one compensation case, Poe v. Lynchburg Training School & Hospital (1981), was filed in the courts on the grounds that the sterilization law was unconstitutional. It was rejected because the law was no longer in effect at the time of the filing. However, the petitioners were granted some compensation because the stipulations of the law itself, which required informing the patients about their operations, had not been carried out in many cases.
The 27 states where sterilization laws remained on the books (though not all were still in use) in 1956 were: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
As of January 2011, discussions were underway regarding compensation for the victims of forced sterilization under the authorization of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina. Governor Bev Perdue formed the NC Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation in 2010 in order "to provide justice and compensate victims who were forcibly sterilized by the State of North Carolina". In 2013 North Carolina announced that it would spend $10 million beginning in June 2015 to compensate men and women who were sterilized in the state's eugenics program; North Carolina sterilized 7,600 people from 1929 to 1974 who were deemed socially or mentally unfit.
The Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) believes that mental disability is not a reason to deny sterilization. The opinion of ACOG is that "the physician must consult with the patient’s family, agents, and other caregivers" if sterilization is desired for a mentally limited patient. In 2003, Douglas Diekema wrote in Volume 9 of the journal Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews that "involuntary sterilization ought not be performed on mentally retarded persons who retain the capacity for reproductive decision-making, the ability to raise a child, or the capacity to provide valid consent to marriage." The Journal of Medical Ethics claimed, in a 1999 article, that doctors are regularly confronted with request to sterilize mentally limited people who cannot give consent for themselves. The article recommend that sterilization should only occur when there is a "situation of necessity" and the "benefits of sterilization outweigh the drawbacks." The American Journal of Bioethics published an article, in 2010, that concluded the interventions used in the Ashley treatment may benefit future patients. These interventions, at the request of the parents and guidance from the physicians, included a hysterectomy and surgical removal of the breast buds of the mentally and physically disabled child.
The inability to pay for the cost of raising children has been a reason courts have ordered coercive or compulsory sterilization. In June 2014, a Virginia judge ruled that a man on probation for child endangerment must be able to pay for his seven children before having more children; the man agreed to get a vasectomy as part of his plea deal. In 2013, an Ohio judge ordered a man owing nearly $100,000 in unpaid child support to "make all reasonable efforts to avoid impregnating a woman" as a condition of his probation.
148 female prisoners in two California institutions were sterilized between 2006 and 2010 in a supposedly voluntary program, but it was determined that the prisoners did not give consent to the procedures. In September 2014, California enacted Bill SB 1135 that bans sterilization in correctional facilities, unless the procedure shall be required in a medical emergency to preserve inmate's life.
Discussions have yet to begin regarding compensation for victims of forced sterilization in other states.
Puerto Rican physician, Dr. Lanauze Rolón, founded the League for Birth Control in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1925, but the League was quickly squashed by opposition from the Catholic church. A similar League was founded seven years later, in 1932, in San Juan, Puerto Rico and continued in operation for two years before opposition and lack of support forced its closure. Yet another effort at establishing birth control clinics was made in 1934 by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in a relief response to the conditions of the Great Depression. As a part of this effort, 68 birth control clinics were opened on the island.
The next mass opening of clinics occurred in January 1937 when American Dr. Clarence Gamble, in association with a group of wealthy and influential Puerto Ricans, organized the Maternal and Infant Health Association and opened 22 birth control clinics. On May 13 of that same year, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Menendez Ramos, signed and implemented a birth control and eugenic sterilization law that allowed the dissemination of information regarding birth control methods as well as legalized the practice of birth control. The government cited a growing population of the poor and unemployed as motivators for the law.
Unemployment and widespread poverty would continue to grow in Puerto Rico in the 40s, threatening both U.S. private investment in Puerto Rico and acting as a deterrent for future investment. In an attempt to attract additional U.S. private investment in Puerto Rico, another round of liberalizing trade policies were implemented and referred to as “Operation Bootstrap.” Despite these policies and their relative success, unemployment and poverty in Puerto Rico remained high, high enough to prompt an increase in emigration from Puerto Rico to the United States between 1950 and 1955. The issues of immigration, Puerto Rican poverty, and threats to U.S. private investment made population control concerns a prime political and social issue for the United States.
The 50s also saw the production of social science research supporting sterilization procedures in Puerto Rico. Princeton’s Office of Population Research, in collaboration with the Social Research Department at the University of Puerto Rico, conducted interviews with couples regarding sterilization and other birth control. Their studies concluded that there was a significant need and desire for permanent birth control among Puerto Ricans. In response, Puerto Rico’s governor and Commissioner of health opened 160 private, temporary birth control clinics with the specific purpose of sterilization.
Also during this era, private birth control clinics were established in Puerto Rico with funds provided by wealthy Americans.Joseph Sunnen, a wealthy American Republican and industrialist, established the Sunnen Foundation in 1957. The foundation funded new birth control clinics under the title “La Asociación Puertorriqueña el Biensestar de la Familia” and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an experimental project to determine if a formulaic program could be used to control population growth in Puerto Rico and beyond.
Sterilization Procedures and Coercion
From beginning of the 1900s, U.S. and Puerto Rican governments espoused rhetoric connecting the poverty of Puerto Rico with overpopulation and the “hyper-fertility” of Puerto Ricans. Such rhetoric combined with eugenics ideology of reducing “population growth among a particular class or ethnic group because they are considered…a social burden,” was the philosophical basis for the 1937 birth control legislation enacted in Puerto Rico. A Puerto Rican Eugenics Board, modeled after a similar board in the United States, was created as part of the bill, and officially ordered ninety-seven involuntary sterilizations.
The legalization of sterilization was followed by a steady increase in the popularity of the procedure, both among the Puerto Rican population and among physicians working in Puerto Rico. Though sterilization could be performed on men and women, women were most likely to undergo the procedure. Sterilization was most frequently recommended by physicians because of a pervasive belief that Puerto Ricans and the poor were not intelligent enough to use other forms of contraception. Physicians and hospitals alike also implemented hospital policy to encourage sterilization, with some hospitals refusing to admit healthy pregnant women for delivery unless they consented to be sterilized. This has been best documented at Presbyterian Hospital, where the unofficial policy for a time was to refuse admittance for delivery to women who already had three living children unless she consented to sterilization. There is additional evidence that true informed consent was not obtained from patients before they underwent sterilization, if consent was solicited at all.
By 1949 a survey of Puerto Rican women found that 21% of women interviewed had been sterilized, with sterilizations being performed in 18% of all hospital births statewide as a routine post-partum procedure, with the sterilization operation performed before women left the hospitals after giving birth. As for the birth control clinic’s founded by Sunnen, the Puerto Rican Family Planning Association reported that around 8,000 women and 3,000 men had been sterilized in Sunnen's privately funded clinics. At one point, the levels of sterilization in Puerto Rico were so high that they alarmed the Joint Committee for Hospital Accreditation, who then demanded that Puerto Rican hospitals limit sterilizations to ten percent of all hospital deliveries in order to receive accreditation. The high popularity of sterilization continued into the 60s and 70s, during which the Puerto Rican government made the procedures available for free and reduced fees. The effects of the sterilization and contraception campaigns of the 1900s in Puerto Rico are still felt in Puerto Rican cultural history today.
Controversy and Opposing Viewpoints
There has been much debate and scholarly analysis concerning the legitimacy of choice given to Puerto Rican women with regards to sterilization, reproduction, and birth control, as well as with the ethics of economically motivated mass sterilization programs.
Some scholars, such as Bonnie Mass and Iris Lopez, have argued that the history and popularity of mass sterilization in Puerto Rico represents a government-led eugenics initiative for population control., They cite the private and government funding of sterilization, coercive practices, and the eugenics ideology of Puerto Rican and American governments and physicians as evidence of a mass sterilization campaign.
On the other side of the debate, scholars like Laura Briggs have argued that evidence does not substantiate claims of a mass sterilization program. She further argues that reducing the popularity of sterilization in Puerto Rico to a state initiative ignores the legacy of Puerto Rican feminist activism in favor or birth control legalization and the individual agency of Puerto Rican women in making decisions about family planning.
When the United States took census of Puerto Rico in 1899 the birth rate was 40 births per one thousand people. By 1961 the birth rate had dropped to 30.8 per thousand. In 1955, 16.5% of Puerto Rican women of childbearing age had been sterilized, this jumped to 34% in 1965.
In 1969, sociologist Harriet Presser analyzed the 1965 Master Sample Survey of Health and Welfare in Puerto Rico. She specifically analyzed data from the survey for women ages 20 to 49 who had at least one birth, resulting in an overall sample size of 1,071 women. She found that over 34% of women aged 20–49 had been sterilized in Puerto Rico in 1965.
Presser’s analysis also found that 46.7% of women who reported they were sterilized were between the ages of 34 and 39. Of the sample of women sterilized, 46.6% had been married 15 to 19 years, 43.9% had been married for 10 to 14 years, and 42.7% had been married for 20 to 24 years. Nearly 50% of women sterilized had three or four births. Over 1/3 of women who reported being sterilized were sterilized in their twenties, with the average age of sterilization being 26.
A survey by a team of Americans in 1975 confirmed Presser's assessment that nearly 1/3 of Puerto Rican women of childbearing age had been sterilized. As of 1977, Puerto Rico had the highest proportion of childbearing-aged persons sterilized in the world. In 1993, ethnographic work done in New York by anthropologist Iris Lopez showed that the history of sterilization continued to effect the lives of Puerto Rican women even after they immigrated to the United States and lived there for generations. The history of the popularity of sterilization in Puerto Rico meant that Puerto Rican women living in America had high rates of female family members who had undergone sterilization, and it remained a highly popular form of birth control among Puerto Rican women living in New York.
According to reports, as of 2012, un-Islamic forced and coerced sterilization are current Government policy in Uzbekistan for women with two or three children as a means of forcing population control and to improve maternal mortality rates. In November 2007, a report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture reported that "the large number of cases of forced sterilization and removal of reproductive organs of women at reproductive age after their first or second pregnancy indicate that the Uzbek government is trying to control the birth rate in the country" and noted that such actions were not against the national Criminal Code in response to which the Uzbek delegation to the associated conference was "puzzled by the suggestion of forced sterilization, and could not see how this could be enforced."
Reports of forced sterilizations, hysterectomies and IUD insertions first emerged in 2005, although it is reported that the practice originated in the late 1990s, with reports of a secret decree dating from 2000. The current policy was allegedly instituted by Islam Karimov under Presidential Decree PP-1096, "on additional measures to protect the health of the mother and child, the formation of a healthy generation" which came into force in 2009. In 2005 Deputy Health Minister Assomidin Ismoilov confirmed that doctors in Uzbekistan were being held responsible for increased birth rates.
Based on a report by journalist Natalia Antelava, doctors reported that the Ministry of Health told doctors they must perform surgical sterilizations on women. One doctor reported, “It's ruling number 1098 and it says that after two children, in some areas after three, a woman should be sterilized.”, in a loss of the former surface decency of Central Asian mores in regard of female chastity. In 2010, the Ministry of Health passed a decree stating all clinics in Uzbekistan should have sterilization equipment ready for use. The same report also states that sterilization is to be done on a voluntary basis with the informed consent of the patient. In the 2010 Human Rights Report of Uzbekistan, there were many reports of forced sterilization of women along with allegations of the government pressuring doctors to sterilize women in order to control the population. Doctors also reported to Antelava that there are quotas they must reach every month on how many women they need to sterilize. These orders are passed on to them through their bosses and, allegedly, from the government.
On May 15, 2012, during a meeting with the Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow the Uzbek president Islam Karimov said: "we are doing everything in our hands to make sure that the population growth rate [in Uzbekistan] does not exceed 1.2-1.3" The Uzbek version of RFE/RL reported that with this statement Karimov indirectly admitted that forced sterilization of women is indeed taking place in Uzbekistan. The main Uzbek television channel, O'zbekiston, cut out Karimov's statement about the population growth rate while broadcasting his conversation with Putin. It is unclear if there is any genocidal conspiracy in regard of the Mongol type involved, in connection with genetic drain of this type through lack of their reproduction.
Despite international agreement concerning the inhumanity and illegality of forced sterilization, it has been suggested that the Government of Uzbekistan continues to pursue such programs.
Eugenics programs including forced sterilization existed in most Northern European countries, as well as other more or less Protestant countries. Some programs, such as Canada's and Sweden's, lasted well into the 1970s. Other countries that had notably active sterilisation programmes include Denmark, Norway, Finland,Estonia, Switzerland, Iceland, and some countries in Latin America (including Panama). In the United Kingdom, Home Secretary Winston Churchill was a noted advocate, and his successor Reginald McKenna introduced a bill that included forced sterilisation. Writer G. K. Chesterton led a successful effort to defeat that clause of the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act.
According to some testimonies, the Soviet Union allegedly imposed forced sterilisation on female workers deported from Romania to Soviet labour camps. This is said to have occurred after World War II, when Romania was supposed to supply a reconstruction workforce (according to the armistice convention). However, no court decisions or formal investigations of these allegations are known for the moment.
In 2015, the Court of Protection of the United Kingdom ruled that a woman with six children and an IQ of 70 should be sterilized for her own safety because another pregnancy would have been a "significantly life-threatening event" for her and the fetus.