RAMALLAH, January 27 (JMCC) - Israel's health ministry has ordered doctors to stop administering Depo-Provera, a contraceptive, to Ethiopian Jewish women after a journalist found evidence that the immigrants were being administered the drug without their consent, reports The Independent
The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynecologists 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”.
Haaretz published an extract from a letter sent by the Ministry of Health to units administering the drug. Doctors were told “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”.
The uncovering of the policy is reminiscent of other discriminatory government policies against African immigrants to Israel, such as a practice of dumping and refusing blood donations by Ethiopian Jews.