Forced sterilization, with its history of racism and eugenics, is banned under multiple international treaties, reported The New York Times. 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.
The United States has signed but not ratified a separate treaty on the issue and sterilization laws vary by state, There are many laws in the United States that allow forced sterilization of disabled people. Today, 31 states and Washington, D.C., have laws allowing forced sterilization of disabled people. Under these laws, a judge can decide whether to sterilize someone. This happens when the judge thinks the disabled person cannot make the decision on their own. The judge can order the sterilization if they think it is the best choice for the disabled person.
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. And records show that the Istanbul
treaty’s official watchdog has repeatedly criticized governments for not doing
enough to protect disabled people.
The result is that people with intellectual
disabilities — mostly women — are still being sterilized, even when it is not
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