International perspectives on the sterilization of women with intellectual disabilities

Tilley, Elizabeth; Earle, Sarah and Walmsley, Jan (2012). International perspectives on the sterilization of women with intellectual disabilities. In: Earle, Sarah; Komaromy, Carol and Layne, Linda L. eds. Understanding Reproductive Loss: Perspectives on life, death and fertility. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 23–36.

URL: http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&calcT...

Abstract

In this chapter we focus on the sterilization of women with intellectual disabilities. We offer an international perspective, although one which draws predominantly on evidence from modern western societies, with a special focus on the UK context. In part it is a historical review, since the practice of involuntary sterilization is now subject to strict legal regulation. However, despite developments in Human Rights and Mental Capacity legislation, lack of control over contraceptive and reproductive choices continues to feature in the lives of women with intellectual disabilities. While the mass involuntary sterilization of women with intellectual disabilities is no longer a feature of current policy and practice in western societies, other forms of reproductive control – notably the use of long-term contraception such as Depo Provera1 - appear to be commonly used. In this chapter we draw upon the authors’ interests in oral history, life story approaches, social policy and health sociology to explore this hidden area of reproductive loss.

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