Last updated on June 3rd, 2023 at 12:39 pm
An Australian Senate investigation has brought to light distressing accounts of forced abortion and sterilization inflicted upon women with disabilities. Testimonies were presented by various organizations, including the Victorian Women’s Health Services Network. The network voiced concern that women with disabilities were frequently denied the ability to consent to medical procedures, including abortion, and suffered more reproductive coercion than their non-disabled counterparts. Women’s Health in the South East further contended that forced sterilization violated all international human rights treaties to which Australia is a signatory and amounted to torture.
Women With Disabilities Australia also contributed to the inquiry, condemning the extreme breaches of rights endured by disabled women in the country. Carolyn Frohmader, the group’s executive director, pointed out that in spite of being a prosperous nation, Australia continues to permit practices such as forced sterilization, forced abortion, and menstrual suppression. Frohmader denounced these actions as disgraceful and argued that such severe forms of reproductive violence have no place in a civilized society.
As per The Guardian, there were nine documented instances of forced sterilizations in Australia in 2020-21. The Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (Women and Girls’ Rights) co-chair, Tania Penovic, referenced anecdotal accounts of women who were sexually assaulted or deemed incapable of caring for a child being coerced into abortions. Penovic’s group underscored an urgent need to prohibit forced sterilization.
The Senate inquiry’s findings were published in a report this week, with the topic of forced abortion and sterilization comprising only a small part of the discussion. In a similar case in the UK in June 2019, a court initially ordered a woman with a moderate learning disability to undergo a forced abortion. The decision was subsequently overturned after the commencement of the three-day abortion procedure, as the court had insufficiently considered the woman’s wishes and feelings, as well as the views of her primary caregivers, including her mother, who believed an abortion was not in her best interests.
Catherine Robinson, a spokesperson for Right To Life UK, commented on the disturbing revelations, describing the forced abortion of any woman as deplorable. She asserted that these acts represent a gross violation of human rights, with little to no consideration for the well-being of both the mother and the child.