Imagine you have a daughter who is severely intellectually disabled.
Caring for her takes up all of your strength and your time. And as if you don’t already have enough to deal with, for about five days every month, everything gets worse. She gets her period.
She doesn’t understand what is happening. She finds the blood incredibly distressing and refuses to wear a pad. She is confused, upset and cannot deal with the situation on her own.
How is she supposed to live her life during those five days? How are you supposed to live yours? And now that she’s menstruating, what if your daughter falls pregnant? What if someone took advantage of her trusting nature and child-like innocence? Not only would this be tragic and unexplainable to her… but the baby would also become your responsibility.
If this was you – if this was your daughter – would you consider sterilisation? Should it be your right, as the parent of a minor or young woman with an intellectual disability, to order a hysterectomy and make the periods stop?
This is a question asked by thousands of parents in this situation, and next month they will have an answer.
Parents of children with disabilities could be allowed – or banned -from sterilising their children.
Last Wednesday, a Senate inquiry into involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia held its public hearings. As expected, opinion was just as heartfelt as it was divided.
Instigated by Queensland Senator and disability advocate Sue Boyce (who herself has a daughter with Down’s Syndrome), the inquiry aims to explore the needs of carers and families as well as the rights of disabled women when it comes to the sterilisation of those with disabilities.
Currently, there are no clear numbers on the amount of sterilisations performed on disabled women and girls in Australia.
Since a High Court decision in 1992 called ‘Marion’s Case’ tried to outlaw the practice, numbers of steralisations are believed to have reduced significantly.