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(LifeSiteNews) — According to a report by The New York Times on November 25, many people with disabilities are being sterilized without their consent. According to Sarah Hurtes, who reports from across Europe and spent over a month in Iceland working on the investigation: “Forced sterilization, with its history of racism and eugenics, is banned under multiple international treaties. Thirty-seven European nations and the European Union have ratified the Istanbul Convention, which declares, without exception, that nonconsensual sterilization is a human rights violation. But a New York Times investigation found over a third of those countries have made exceptions, often for people that the government deems too disabled to consent. Some countries have banned the practice but not actually criminalized it.”  

Most of those who are sterilized without consent are women, and doctors who spoke to Hurtes said that they believe the practice is rare—but that is hard to determine due to unreliable records. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, a former United Nations special rapporteur for disability rights, observed that families or care institutions often find sterilization convenient and claim that it is in the disabled person’s best interest. Hurtes cites one example of a mother who signed off on a hysterectomy for her cognitively impaired 20-year-old due to periods that could last up to six weeks; Iceland’s law “only covers tubal ligation.” Hurtes cites other examples, as well, and Hurtes reports that there are instances of parents and doctors pressuring disabled women to consent.  

In France, it is permitted to sterilize “people with severe mental disabilities under certain circumstances” although it happens rarely. In Belgium, it is “generally illegal” but still takes place “if parents request it and doctors, after consulting with hospital psychologists, deem it in a woman’s best interest.” There are undeniably difficult situations in which parents genuinely do feel that sterilization is in the best interests of their disabled child, but Katrin Langensiepen, a German politician who is “visually disabled,” is advocating for a “strict Europewide ban on nonconsensual sterilization,” noting that most eugenics practices were defended on the basis that they were in the best interests of the disabled people they targeted. Many, like Langensiepen, question whether disabled people can give consent at all. 

READ: Jury trial set for hospital accused of intentionally killing teen with Down syndrome

Hurtes’ report closes with the story of Kristin Smith, an Icelandic woman who has Down syndrome. When she was twenty, her mother arranged for her to be sterilized via tubal ligation. When Kristin asked her mother about having children, she was told that it “would be too difficult.” She consented to the surgery. During 2020, however she met Sigurdur Haukur Vilhjalmsson, who also has Down syndrome, and the fell in love. They got engaged, and now live together in Husavik in a one-bedroom apartment for people with disabilities. Hurtes writes: 

Ms. Smith and Mr. Vilhjalmsson are the building’s most independent tenants and its only couple. She washes dishes in a restaurant. He works in a hospital kitchen. Ms. Smith met Sigurdur Haukur Vilhjalmsson at a summer camp for adults with disabilities. They enjoy road trips, cooking and music. Mr. Vilhjalmsson plays the drums…They’re picking a wedding date. On Sundays, they walk hand in hand around the port. They talk about their future. Mr. Vilhjalmsson wants children. Ms. Smith has spent years saying that she never did, that her mother’s decision was for the best. Now the conversation is less abstract. Does she want to be a mother? “I wanted to,” she said. Her eyes welled. She paused, composing herself. “I still want to.” 

Hurtes’ report reveals that decades after eugenics was revealed to be perhaps the greatest medical scandal of the twentieth century, it is still practiced in other forms. We see it in the mass destruction of children with Down syndrome in the womb, rendering these beautiful people nearly extinct in Iceland (95% of children like Kristin and Sigurdur are aborted); we see it in the Trudeau government’s refusal to heed the disability community as the former continues to expand Canada’s euthanasia regime; we see it in the coldblooded ableism of famous intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins, who stated that it is “immoral” not to abort babies with Down syndrome. Katrin Langensiepen is correct: the lingering practice of nonconsensual sterilization should be banned entirely.  

READ: How should the world see people with Down syndrome? Just ask these two brothers

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.

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