Jewish Ethiopian women were given contraceptive injections before immigrating to Israel and after arrival. The result: a 50 percent decline in birthrate, and a ‘missing generation’ of Ethiopian children.”
“This story reeks of racism, paternalism and arrogance.”
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.
Educational Television posted Gabai’s 25-minute report, titled “Where did the children disappear to?” on YouTube on December 6, two days before it was scheduled to air on channel 23.
In her attempt to find out what the story was behind the shocking statistic, Gabai interviewed Ethiopian women immigrants and learned from them that they were given Depo-Provera (a contraceptive injection containing the hormone progestin administered once every three months) against their will. While some did not understand what the shots were for, others felt pressured into taking them in response to alleged threats that they would otherwise not be allowed to immigrate to Israel. The shots began in the refugee camps in Gondar, continued in the transition camps in Addis Ababa, and continued on after their arrivals in Israel. According to the women’s testimony, this continuity appears to have been a coordinated effort between the medical staff at the clinics in Ethiopia run by the JDC and doctors in Israeli hospitals and clinics.
The women, it seems, were never given proper family planning counseling outlining the various birth control methods, nor were they given the chance to choose the one with which they felt most comfortable. What were they given? The clear message that life would be very hard for them if they were to have large families in Israel.
“The shots began in the refugee camps in Gondar, continued in the transition camps in Addis Ababa, and continued on after their arrivals in Israel.”
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.
Gabai interviewed a female gynecologist who expressed shock at hearing that just about all Ethiopian women are given Depo-Provera shots, saying that it is rarely prescribed and usually recommended only for women who are institutionalized or developmentally disabled (in other words, women who cannot be relied upon to practice other methods responsibly). A male medical expert, however, said Depo-Provera is no big deal and that he had heard that it was the primary means of birth control in Ethiopia in general.