Jul 18, 2013

Forced sterilisation of people with disabilities: submissions that led to change

A Senate committee examining sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia recommended in a report yesterday a tightening of regulations and the prosecution of parents who take their children overseas to be sterilised.

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

Imagine being told by your parents that you were having your tonsils removed — only to find out years later you’d had a hysterectomy. Or having a doctor laugh at you when you mention you’re sexually active.


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8 thoughts on “Forced sterilisation of people with disabilities: submissions that led to change

  1. a_boy

    The people who advocate against sterilisation are living in cloud cuckoo land. We have friends whose daughter has crisped-caht syndrome and is totally reliant on her parents as she is aphasic and has difficulty walking. She has been lucky in having parents and two brothers who have devoted endless hours to her welfare, but the brothers now have their lives to live and have moved away.
    A medical adviser suggested that “Wouldn’t it be nice to have another baby in the family?” She was totally gob-smacked when our friend (who also is a doctor by the way) burst into tears. “What have I said?” she asked.
    It’s that sort of insentivity to the reality of the family situation which makes my blood boil.

  2. mikeb

    If you are unable to look after a baby then you shouldn’t have one – disabled or not. I can’t see any ethical problem in medical intervention to stop menstruation or pregnancy in someone who clearly has no way of coping with those issues. On the other hand it could only improve the quality of life for someone who had it done. Sometimes you just need to get real.

  3. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    I think the ‘anonymous mother’ has a very good point. Ultimately the responsibility for the children will be hers – not societies. Its good that people care about the right of intellectually disabled people to reproduce but they also need to step up and assist these people to take care of the children that result.

  4. dazza

    I really think it’s cruel for people with disabilities NOT to be sterilised. Then I also believe it’s cruel for their child and everyone else associated with her disabilities. No one wins!

  5. Andrew McIntosh

    Part of the problem here seems to be the over-reaching way the word “disabilities” is used. If the argument is based on whether anyone with a disability should or should not be sterilised, that’s clearly never going to be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. Since the issue seems to be based on the concept of rights, then clearly the concept of responsibilities need to be involved. In other words, can the individual discharge the responsibilities of being a parent? As opposed to, is the individual merely just physically capable of carrying a foetus to term or able to inseminate?

  6. robo

    The do gooder who assumes the mantle of moral arbiter for others is, in my view, outrageous.
    I think if this person were to take up the burden of carer, there would be one less voice telling others what they should do.

  7. Mike Smith

    +1 MikeB. It’s the emotive word ‘disabled’ that has caused the stir. Just say that some people in society should be sterilised because they cannot look after babies/children, for whatever reasons. (could quite easily be that they cannot afford to look after them)

  8. Estelle Shields

    The current state of play in this country’s disability sector requires that parents care until they can do so no longer. When the support arrangements break down, usually with the demise of the last parent, the person with a disability gets shunted off to the first available group home, often on the other side of the city. She will lose all social contacts, her job or day program, her known locality, the family home and all supports. She will suffer a trauma from which she may never recover. And yet the only loss that our advocates seem to think worth protesting is the loss of her uterus.

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