Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Uterus Nappers: The Frightening Truth Behind Forced Sterilization

16 Feb 2012The birth of a child would have to be one of the most, if not the most, enjoyable events to occur, in a person’s lifetime. When a child is born with a disability, however, the usual parental concerns for that child grow immensely, compared to those of a healthy baby.

I know when I was born, my parents had many fears for me, and how my life would pan out. They wondered if I’d ever be able to do things independently, if I’d make friends, if I’d ever be able to work, if I’d ever meet someone who could love me despite my disability….

Luckily, for them, I’ve shown them, that most of their fears were invalid, and they have little reason to worry about my disability affecting my life these days. The one concern that they would’ve had, which I’m still looking into myself, is whether or not I’d ever be able to have children. Thankfully, I still have the option of starting a family, but for some women, like in today’s blog, they weren’t as lucky.

You’d think that the idea of forced sterilizations being thrust upon parents of young girls with disabilities, would’ve been abolished decades ago, with the introduction of the feminist movement, but surprising as it is to discover, these shocking incidences are still occurring today, even in Australia.

Federal Disability Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes, has raised the issue recently, and is concerned at the amount of involuntary sterilizations that are being carried out, without court approval.

Graeme’s concerns have encouraged women with disabilities, such as Stella Young, who is the editor for disability website Ramp Up, to come forward with their stories relating to forced sterilization.

Like me, Stella was born with brittle bones, and has broken a substantial amount of bones in her life, and now uses a motorized wheelchair, to allow her to live an independent life.

So, on this particular occasion, Stella, who was four years old at the time, was holidaying with her family in Adelaide, when she broke her leg, and was taken to hospital, to have the bone set. Before the procedure, the doctors asked Stella’s parents if they wanted her to receive a hysterectomy, while she was under anaesthetic. Thank goodness, her parents didn’t like the sound of the idea, and refused to allow their daughter to endure such an invasive procedure.

These days, it’s more common for young girls, with intellectual disabilities, to have to go through forced sterilization. The reasoning behind this is for protection, so when the child grows up, they do not naively fall pregnant, or if they were to face sexual assault, which is more common amongst women with disabilities, then there would be no accidental pregnancies.

For some women though, they grow up to be willing and capable of starting a family, only to learn, years after the fact, that they have had that right drastically taken away from them, without their knowledge or consent.

This shocking discovery can have terrifying and devastating psychological and physical effects on women, not to mention, that pre-pubescent sterilization can also cause hair loss, and other health concerns.

Sometimes, this treatment is valid, like with one girl in the original article that I read, who suffered from seizures that were linked to her menstrual cycle. Only in extreme cases like this, and with proper consent, should women be subjected to this type of practice, and it should be the only viable and last resort.

I was shocked when I first learnt that this type of thing was still going on, and in my country, I can only imagine what cringe-worthy practices are undertaken in other poorer, or third world countries. If you’d like to learn more, and read the original article, from the ABC News website, click on this link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-14/disability-advocates-relay-sterilisation-tales/3829930


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