Sterilization of the mentally disabled continues in Europe, despite laws, treaties, and medical protocols, according to a special investigation by the New York Times.
“So many times, you hear it’s in the best interest of the woman,” says Catalina Devandas Aguilar, a former United Nations special rapporteur for disability rights. “But often, it’s because it’s more convenient for the family or the institution that takes care of them.”
The NYTimes report focuses on Iceland, where non-consensual sterilization is banned except in cases of medical necessity. However, this does not include hysterectomies – the usual procedure for women with intellectual disabilities. In the past, governments – including Iceland – sterilised women on eugenic grounds. Today, parents and caregivers organise sterilisations to make these women more comfortable. They feel that they are acting in their best interests.
“When we say, ‘sterilization of the disabled,’ we might sound like Nazis, but this completely ignores the diversity of disabilities, the gravity of certain disabilities, and the distress of parents,” said Ghada Hatem-Gantzer, a Paris gynaecologist, told the NYTimes.