Israel has admitted that it forcibly and without consent gave birth control injections to Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, according to a report in Haaretz. An investigative journalist uncovered the fact that most of the women who were given the birth control shots were not aware they were being given birth control and did not consent. Since that discovery, Health Ministry Director General Prof Ron Gamzu has acknowledged in a letter to Israeli health maintenance organizations that Black Jewish immigrants were given the shots.
Gamzu issued the letter after Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel lodged a complaint on behalf of multiple women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrant groups. The letter specifically instructed gynecologists in the HMOs “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.”
Investigative journalist Gal Gabbay interviewed 35 Ethiopian immigrants along with Sava Reuben. Some of them reported that while they were still in transit camps waiting to complete the immigration process, they were intimidated and threatened into taking the Depo-Provera birth control shot. One woman stated, “They told us they are inoculations. They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” Another woman reported that she believed she had been given a flu vaccination. Shockingly, 25 of the 35 women interviewed were still receiving birth control shots at the time they were interviewed.
One woman, who declined to give her name, says that the only reason she complied with receiving the birth control injections was because she was threatened with her immigration to Israel being blocked. These women represent a handful of the women affected by this unethical act. In just the last decade, more than 50,000 Ethiopian Jews have immigrated to Israel, with almost 100,000 immigrating since the 1980s.
According to a New York Times report, Israel has historically made birth rates and demographics a political issue as the country focuses on trying to promote Jewish birthrates in order to retain a Jewish majority. It is estimated that Israel’s deceptive use of the birth control shots could be a significant factor in why the birthrate of Israel’s Ethiopian community has dropped by some 50 percent. Sava and Reuben produced a documentary regarding this drop, instigating a popular outcry.
Six years prior to the discovery of the forcible use of the birth control, Women and Technologies Project head Hedva Eyal questioned the Israeli government abut why Ethiopian immigrants were disproportionately receiving 60 percent of birth control shots in the country, but she was not given an answer. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Eyal states, “The ease with which a woman’s testimony is dismissed – certainly that of a Black woman and a poor Black woman at that – is shocking.”
Israel’s health ministry has vehemently denied the forcible use of the birth control shots. A spokesperson for the department states, “The Israel ministry of health neither advises nor encourages the use of Depo-Provera injections and if they are being administered this is in despite of our view.”
Dr. Mushira Aboodia, a gynecologist with Jerusalem’s Hadassah medical center, states, “This is a policy that no one will admit. 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. Something is definitely wrong here.” It is disturbingly ironic that Israel has engaged in something eerily similar to the dark eugenics experiments carried out during World War II against Jews.
This is not the first time the birth control shot Depo-Provera has been embroiled in controversy. In the United States, between 1967 and 1978, 13,000 impoverished women in Georgia were part of an experiment where they were given the birth control injections with many of them not being aware that they were part of an experiment. Half of the women in the study were Black.