You’d think the people who once were targets of racist eugenics would not practice that on others:
Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.
The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.
One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.
The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.
Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.
Meanwhile, the legacy of America’s eugenics policy is also in the news:
E. Lewis Reynolds was just a boy when his cousin hit him in the head with a rock, nearly killing him and triggering epileptic-like convulsions that lingered for some years.
His condition didn’t stop him from enlisting in the Marine Corps or serving his country in Korea and Vietnam during a 30-year military career.
But it was enough to classify a teenager as a “defective person” and order his compulsory sterilization under an infamous 1924 Virginia law whose aim was to build a more perfect society.The state has already offered a formal apology for a selective-breeding policy that led to the sterilization of hundreds of mostly poor, uneducated men and women and served as one of the models for eugenics programs in other states and even Nazi Germany.Now Reynolds, 85, thinks it’s time that Virginia pay compensation, too, to him and perhaps hundreds of others.
Their cause has been taken up by an improbable alliance in Virginia’s House of Delegates — conservative Republican Robert G. Marshall (Prince William) and liberal Democrat Patrick A. Hope (Arlington) — who have sponsored a bill that would require the state to pay each victim $50,000. . . .
The bill, HB 1529, would benefit people sterilized under the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act. The law — which declared that “heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, idiocy, imbecility, epilepsy, and crime” — was signed March 20, 1924. It had the blessing of doctors and scientists at the University of Virginia and elsewhere. Under its provisions, people who were confined to state institutions because of mental illness, mental retardation or epilepsy could be sterilized as a “benefit both to themselves and society.”
By weeding out its weaker members through selective breeding, society would improve, according to the eugenics movement, which was popular then. In 1907, Indiana became the first of 33 states to enact laws allowing compulsory sterilization of people deemed to be unfit to reproduce, lest their offspring burden society. An estimated 60,000 people were sterilized nationwide by government decree over the years.
“Eugenics was some sort of policy that we could create a perfect race in America,” Hope said in an interview Wednesday. “Obviously, that was just a horrible thing, not to mention putting it in our own code.”
Only California, with 20,000 such operations, had more than Virginia, whose law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell in 1927. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for the majority, said such measures were justifiable so that society would not be “swamped by incompetence.”
“Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he wrote.
More than half of the sterilizations in Virginia occurred at the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded in Lynchburg, but state hospitals in Petersburg, Staunton, Williamsburg and Marion also performed them. Males were given vasectomies; females underwent salpingectomies to remove part of the fallopian tubes.
Most victims were white, but some African Americans and Indians were sterilized. The last two people sterilized under the law had the surgery in 1979, according to state records obtained by Marshall.