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Sterilization, abortions forced on 70 with hearing loss

OSAKA–Seventy hearing-impaired people were forced to undergo sterilization operations or abortions under a postwar eugenics law, according to the first survey on the issue conducted by a group of disabled people.

The Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD) announced the interim results of the survey at a June 9 news conference in Osaka.

The results came from 11 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Miyagi, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka, by May.

Of the 70 people, 52 were women and 18 were men.

Thirty-three of the people were sterilized, while 14 were forced to undergo abortions. In one case, the same person underwent both procedures.

The other 24 cases showed a possibility that surgeries were conducted.

In some cases, it was unclear if the operations were performed based on the Eugenic Protection Law, which was effective from 1948 to 1996.

In other cases, it was unclear if the hearing-impaired people gave their consent for the surgeries.

The JFD counted those cases as “effectively forced surgeries,” in which those people were unable to reject the operations.

The JFD, which has about 19,000 members, started looking into whether hearing-impaired people were forced to submit to the operations after a woman with intellectual disabilities sued the government in January over her forced sterilization.

Since March, JFD member organizations in each prefecture have been questioning those people or their family members through sign language. The survey is expected to continue until August.

The Eugenic Protection Law approved sterilizations or abortions on people if they or their spouses had disabilities.

The operations did not require the consent of disabled people, including people with hereditary hearing impairments.