Israel to Investigate Ethiopian Birth Control Claims

An overwhelming number of women say they were coerced into receiving Depo-Provera injections.

Posted: 03/01/2013 01:07 PM EST
Israel to Investigate Ethiopian Birth Control Claims

Israel has agreed to launch an investigation into why the government administered contraceptive injections to large numbers of Ethiopian immigrant women, often against their will.

Despite the country’s previous denials of such a scheme, Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman announced this week that he will appoint a team to look into allegations that the widespread scheme was intentionally implemented by the Israeli government to reduce births among its Ethiopian immigrant population. Litzman has promised that a representative from the Ethiopian community will have a place on the investigation committee, in addition to senior officials and an independent physician.

The shots have been blamed for the nearly 50 percent drop seen in the birthrate of Ethiopian women over the past decade.

A firestorm over the widespread injections erupted after an Isreali television station aired a documentary this past December featuring interviews with 35 Ethiopian women who say they were forced to take the birth control injection Depo-Provera while in transit camps in Ethiopia or in Israel.

While still in Ethiopia, some of the women claimed they were coerced into receiving the injections after being told that it was “too difficult” to have children in Israel and had their immigration procedures and health care withheld until they agreed to the shots.

"This is a policy that no one will admit,” Dr. Mushira Aboodia, a gynecologist working at Jerusalem's Hadassah medical center told The Guardian. “No one in Israel will take responsibility for the treatment in the camps but someone must have instigated it and it would not be in Ethiopia's interests to treat women preparing to leave the country."

In addition to coercion, many of the women say they were not warned of the side effects of the drug, which include menstrual irregularities, loss of bone mass, abdominal pain or discomfort, weight gain, headache, fatigue and depression. 

Aboodia told the paper that the majority of Ethiopian women she met received Depo-Provera injections.

In the past, Israel has been vocal about its discontent with the steadily increasing number of African migrants residing in the country. Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implemented a plan to send thousands of African migrants back to their homelands and began construction of a fence along Israel's border with Egypt in efforts to keep out Africans.

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(Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

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