Israeli panel to probe contraceptive shots for Ethiopian women

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Health Ministry will appoint a panel to investigate allegations that Ethiopian-Israeli women were given contraceptive shots against their will.

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman will name the team, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Thursday, to include senior Health Ministry officials, a representative of the Ethiopian community and an independent doctor.

The investigation will look at whether the shots were given without the women’s knowledge or consent and without fully informing them of the side effects, and if they were used to reduce the number of births in the Ethiopian immigrant community.

A report broadcast Dec. 8 on the “Vacuum” investigative news program on Israeli Educational Television alleged that Ethiopian immigrants were coerced or coaxed into receiving Depo Provera, a long-term contraceptive shot that lasts three months, both by Jewish aid officials before their immigration to Israel and by health workers in Israel.

In the past decade, births among Ethiopian women in Israel have fallen by nearly 50 percent, according to the report.

In mid-January, the Health Ministry instructed doctors to stop administering the shots unless women ask for them and understand their ramifications.

The ministry’s directive, sent by Director General Ron Gamzu on Jan. 20 in response to a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, instructs 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.”

Both the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which provides an array of health services to prospective Israeli emigres in Ethiopia, and the Health Ministry deny that the shots were given without the knowledge of the women. 

ADVERTISEMENT: Visit to find a Jewish camp and see if your child qualifies for a $1,000 grant.

Click to write a letter to the editor.