Friday 14 December 2012

In Israel: Stringent Contraception for *Some*

A story that broke nearly three years ago is back in the news in Israel.
The birthrate among Ethiopians in Israel decreased by a dramatic 50% in the last decade, and Israeli journalist Gal Gabai wanted to know why. She investigated the issue for “Vacuum,” her documentary series on Israeli Educational Television, and she discovered some things that left her very uncomfortable — and will surely leave others equally so.
Let's go back to January 2010.
Health officials in Israel are subjecting many female Ethiopian immigrants to a controversial long-term birth control drug in what Israeli women's groups allege is a racist policy to reduce the number of black babies. The contraceptive, known as Depo Provera, which is given by injection every three months, is considered by many doctors as a birth control method of last resort because of problems treating its side effects.
Look how it came to light.
Women's groups were alerted to the widespread use of Depo Provera in the Ethiopian community in 2008 when Rachel Mangoli, who runs a day care centre for 120 Ethiopian children in Bnei Braq, a suburb of Tel Aviv, observed that she had received only one new child in the previous three years. "I started to think about how strange the situation was after I had to send back donated baby clothes because there was no one in the community to give them to," she said.

She approached a local health clinic serving the 55 Ethiopian families in Bnei Braq and was told by the clinic manager that they had been instructed to administer Depo Provera injections to the women of child-bearing age, though he refused to say who had issued the order. Ms Mangoli, who interviewed the women, said: "They had not been told about alternative forms of contraception or about the side effects or given medical follow-ups." The women complained of a wide range of side effects associated with the drug, including headaches, abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of libido and general burning sensations.
Depo Provera is controversial? Boy howdy. It causes, among other nastinesses, osteoporosis.

On the plus side, one doesn't need to remember to take it.

Back to the new documentary:
Some of the women interviewed said they were told that birth control pills were not suitable for them because they were not capable of remembering to take them daily. Video shot with a hidden camera during an Israeli health clinic visit by an Ethiopian immigrant, during which she gets a Depo-Provera shot, indeed documents healthcare providers expressing this exact opinion of Ethiopian women.
From the 2010 story:
Figures show that 57 per cent of Depo Provera users in Israel are Ethiopian, even though the community accounts for less than two per cent of the total population. About 90,000 Ethiopians have been brought to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has subsequently been questioned by some rabbis and is doubted by many ordinary Israelis.
That percentage is kind of amazing, isn't it?

Health care providers were told that injectable b.c. was preferred by Ethiopian women, but a survey in Ethiopia reported that of women using b.c. there, 75% of them used oral contraception. The Pill.

Moreover, isn't Israel worried about population decline? Yes, it is.
This policy appears to conflict with the stated goals of the country's Demography Council, a group of experts charged with devising ways to persuade Jewish women to have more babies. The council was established in response to what is widely seen in Israel as a "demographic war" with Palestinians, or the need to maintain a Jewish majority in the region despite high Palestinian birth rates. In a speech marking the council's reconvening in 2002, the then social welfare minister, Shlomo Benizri, referred to "the beauty of the Jewish family that is blessed with many children".

We've blogged about Israeli pro-natalism and its desire to encourage some marriages over others.

And, it seems, there is some history to this sort of thing. From the 2010 article again:
Yali Hashash, a researcher at Haifa University, said attempts to restrict Ethiopian women's fertility echoed practices used against Jewish women who immigrated to Israel from such Arab countries as Iraq, Yemen and Morocco in the state's early years, in the 1950s and 1960s. Many, she said, had been encouraged to fit IUDs when the device was still experimental because Israel's leading gynecologists regarded Arab Jews as "primitive" and incapable of acting "responsibly".

What an ugly stew. Vulnerable women, not particularly welcomed, pressured into a dangerous regime of stringent birth control that contradicts stated population policy.

One's gotta ask: why?

Not very many credible answers, are there?

And this is Canada's great friend. You know, the one we'd apparently go to war over.
“Canada and Israel share a bond of friendship and are allies in the democratic family of countries,” International Development Minister Julian Fantino said in a statement released by Israel’s embassy in Ottawa.
Wonder if Canada also supports coerced contraception for *some* Israelis?

h/t myaguarnieri

No comments:

Post a Comment