Israel to stop controversial contraception for Ethiopians

Israel’s Health Ministry has ordered public health maintenance organizations to stop giving Ethiopian Israelis a long-acting contraception injection.

The order comes more than a month after an Israeli Educational Television report alleging that Ethiopian immigrant women have been coerced into taking contraceptive shots, which explains a 50 percent decline in the Ethiopian birth rate in Israel over the last decade.

Ethiopian women interviewed in the program, called “Vacuum,” said they were coerced into getting injections of Depo-Provera, a long-acting birth control drug, at Jewish-run health clinics in Ethiopia and after moving to Israel.

A letter issued by Health Ministry director-general Ron Gamzu told the HMOs “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,” Haaretz reported Jan. 27.

The letter came after the practice was questioned by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, which represents several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrants’ groups. It was the first time that an Israeli official has acknowledged that Ethiopian women in Israel have been given the drug.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which runs the health clinics in Ethiopia for prospective immigrants to Israel, says it offers contraception among its array of services but that it is purely voluntary. — jta