Israel’s Contraceptive Injections for Ethiopian Migrants: “Racism and Arrogance”

Years of rumours that Ethiopian women were pressured into having contraceptive injections by Israeli officials have finally been confirmed. The Health Ministry has ordered immigration officials in Ethiopia and health workers in Israel to stop coercing or coaxing women into accepting the long-lasting injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera.

The directive instructed doctors “not to renew prescriptions of Depo Provera to women of Ethiopian origin or any other women who, for whatever reason, may not understand the treatment’s implications.” They should also ask patients why they want to take the shot, using a translator if necessary. The Ministry did not confirm or acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Ethiopians who claim to be Jews are welcome to migrate to Israel under the Law of Return, but they face discrimination and have not always integrated well into Israeli society. Births among Ethiopian women have dropped by 50% in the last decade, according to a report by the “Vacuum” investigative news program on Israeli Educational Television. “This story reeks of racism, paternalism and arrogance. It’s a story to be ashamed of,” journalist Gal Gabai concluded.

Ethiopian women told the journalists stories of unsubtle coercion and misinformation. “They said, ‘Come, there are vaccinations, gather everyone,” one of them said. “We said we wouldn’t receive it. They said, ‘You won’t move to Israel.'” Women said that they were told that it would be hard for them to work or find accommodation of they had large families.

This is not a new problem, but the government is finally facing up to the lack of informed consent on the part of a marginalised, poorly-educated minority. In 2008, Hedva Eyal, of the feminist group Isha L’Isha, wrote a report allegingthat the medical profession had failed Ethiopian migrant women.

“The paternalistic attitude towards women of Ethiopian origin and the state’s concern over high rates of birth among poor and black populations drove Israeli official bodies, such as The Jewish Agency and the medical establishment, to act, allegedly for the benefit of women’s health, but in fact according to the concepts and wishes of the establishment regarding the desirable way to conduct family life. As a result, and as this paper shows, women did not get crucial medical information and their right of choice regarding their bodies, families and lives was severely curtailed.”


This article courtesy of MercatorNet.

Michael Cook


Michael Cook likes bad puns, bushwalking and black coffee. He did a BA at Harvard University in the US where it was good for networking, but moved to Sydney where it wasn’t. He also did a PhD on an obscure corner of Australian literature. He has worked as a book editor and magazine editor and has published articles in magazines and newspapers in the US, the UK and Australia.

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  • wbarquez

    In the episode on the Holocaust of the series The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski commented that the Nazi racist atrocities were committed out of “ignorance and arrogance”. I hope that Israel would not fall into the same trap, which they ought to know so well, for they have suffered tremendously for it.

  • LarryM

    The irony is multi-layered in this story. Israel has long been concerned about its demographics. That is, the Arab population is growing at a far greater rate than the Jewish population. They ostensibly want the Jewish population to grow and encourage Jews worldwide to make ‘Aliyah’ using the Law of Return. They also encourage Jewish Israelis to have larger families. But, the Ethiopian Jews are evidently not quite as equal as other Jews. The final irony is that this was the same mindset as those in Hitler’s Germany toward the Jews. The oppressed have become the oppressors.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am pro-Israel, and consider myself a philo-Semite; but this really saddens me.

  • tazabi

    Shame on the Israeli, How could you comit the same crime that was comited on you! No wonder why the arebs never have trust to exist with you. The ethiopians now the cany see that the never had any home than Ethiopia, they should return to ethiopia. i rather live with degnity than constant humilation and struggle to get accepeted as a human in a racist society.