A United Nations expert on human rights urged countries across the world to crack down on the “systemic violence” of forced sterilization and forced abortion.
Catalina Devandas, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of people with disabilities, recently presented a report to the UN General Assembly detailing widespread coercion and force of reproductive procedures on women and girls with disabilities.
“We can no longer ignore the widespread practices of forced sterilization, forced abortion and forced contraception inflicted on girls and young women with disabilities around the world,” Devandas said.
She said such practices violate women and girls and deprive them of choices about their own bodies and futures.
In many cases, Devandas said eugenics is a big motive behind forced sterilization and forced abortion. There is a pervasive push to prevent women and girls with disabilities from passing on their health problems to a future generation.
“These practices are often conducted on a purported precautionary basis because of the vulnerability of girls and young women with disabilities to sexual abuse, and under the fallacy that sterilization would enable girls and young women with disabilities who are ‘deemed unfit for parenthood’ to improve their quality of life without the ‘burden’ of a pregnancy,” according to Devandas’ UN report.
She said they visited dozens of countries across the world and found evidence of forced sterilization, hysterectomies, estrogen treatments, abortions and other reproductive procedures. She said many of these procedures were done with the consent of judges, health care professionals, family members or legal guardians.
“During official country visits, the Special Rapporteur has received information about compulsory regular gynecological checks and the use of forced abortion in institutions as a way to contain the institution’s population,” the report continued.
Devandas said forced sterilization, contraception and abortion must be immediately ended and criminalized across the world.
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“Discriminatory laws and policies are undermining the fundamental right of girls and young women with disabilities to exercise choice and have control over their bodies, violating their integrity and depriving them of dignity while promoting the interests of professionals and caregivers instead,” she said.
Devandas’ report highlights what should be an important priority for the United Nations – especially because some of its own programs have been linked to forced and coerced sterilization.
Jonathan Abbamonte of the Population Research Institute wrote about the connection earlier this year:
In 1998, UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] began operating a family planning program in China at the behest of the Communist government. UNFPA has since insisted that it does not promote abortion as a method of family planning and that its cooperation with the Chinese government in family planning programs does not constitute an endorsement of the one-child policy. UNFPA claimed that family planning programs in project counties were “fully voluntary” and that birth quotas were abolished in counties where they operate family planning programs as “a condition of UNFPA assistance.”
Yet, on-the-ground investigations by the Population Research Institute in 2001 revealed that forced abortion and sterilization remained widespread and a matter of public policy in UNFPA project counties.
In Fujian Province, where UNFPA operated one of its many county projects, women were required to submit to quarterly pelvic exams and to be fitted with an IUD. Women who became pregnant before 20 years of age were forced to submit to an abortion, forced sterilization, and a 10,000 yuan fine.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration defunded UNFPA, citing concerns about the links to forced and coerced sterilization and abortion. UNFPA denies its involvement in forced and coerced abortions and sterilizations in China.