Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Prevention or Protection: Women's Reproductive Choice

Forced and coerced sterilisation: violating the rights of women living with HIV.(REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS): An article from: Sister Namibia

Despite Britain's fostering system being strained to breaking point in the wake of Baby P, more children are being put into care. But is prevention necessarily the answer? Or are we putting place an immoral notion, taking away the human rights of a mother? Project Prevention, a program introduced in America sees that female drug and alcohol addicts are sterilised for a mere $300 dollars in return. But as interest creeps into place with the aftermath of Baby P, is Britain going to follow the US Sterilisation system?

Project Prevention follows the philosophy that to reduce the number of substance exposed births to zero, sterilisation is essential. But as the organisation addresses on their website that this program will “reduce the burden of this social problem on taxpayers, trim down social worker caseloads, and alleviate from our clients the burden of having children that will potentially be taken away.” But how ethical can it be to reduce this issue of women’s human rights to a matter of taxpayer’s money and society’s choice to allow a woman to have a child or not?

Director and Founder of Project Prevention, Barbara Harris mentioned in a recent interview on ITV’s “This Morning” that originally, the US government wanted to bring legislation in to the matter. This meant that if female substance abusers did not comply with the sterilisation, then they would be incarcerated. However, this scheme is supposedly ‘voluntary,’ so how can it be a choice when one would either be imprisoned or given money to be sterilised. It is likely that women in this vulnerable position would choose the latter. Are we bringing the ideology of eugenics in to the system? We have reached the two extremes of the American spectrum; forced sterilisations by the government or prohibited abortions because of the Christian Anti-abortionists.

What this issue poses is the fact that these women are seen to be dispensable because of their vulnerability. According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of women dying from drug-related deaths in England and Wales rose by 17% in 2008 to 853. So why is there is no question about treatment earlier on in the process to stop substance exposed births from continuing to happen; as Project Prevention reveal on their site that they “do not have the resources” for rehabilitation services. But with introduction of money incentive sterilisation, experts have said it may only fuel already existing drug habits, and is clearly not substantial enough to provide for a child. If Project Prevention really wanted to accumulate money then why are they not looking for a long-term solution and putting money towards early rehabilitation?

Already 3000 women have been sterilised in America implicating that $900,000 has been spent on the scheme. The fact that only female parents will be sterilised but male addicts will not be receiving this treatment already suggests a double standard within the program. But as the British government have introduced both maternity and paternity leave, does the male partner have no responsibility towards the child to also withdraw from substances?

Even more so, as Denise Robertson, the current resident agony aunt on “This Morning” reiterated that “this scheme makes assumptions about addicts” and that they are seen as ‘dispensable.’ But what poses a terrifying question, with Project Prevention who states that they do “not have the resources to combat the national problems of poverty,” what next? Sterilise impoverished women or even neuter women with disabilities?

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