Hokkaido couple sue over forced sterilization, coerced abortion

From The Asahi

June 28th 2018

Two more lawsuits were filed against the central government on June 28 over forced sterilization, including one by a couple who say the wife was also coerced into having an abortion.

The husband, 81, and his wife, 75, filed the lawsuit at the Sapporo District Court, seeking 11 million yen ($100,000) each in compensation.

The wife, who has an intellectual disability, was forced to undergo a sterilization operation under the postwar Eugenic Protection Law.

But they are also seeking compensation for the abortion that was carried out in 1981 when she was pregnant with their first child.

The eugenics law, which was aimed at “preventing the birth of inferior offspring,” also encouraged abortions among disabled people and others.

Relatives pressured the wife, then 38, to undergo the abortion because they would be unable to provide the support needed to raise the child.

In June 1981, the husband, who was 44 at the time, signed the document that gave his consent to the abortion and forced sterilization against his will, according to the lawsuit.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the husband’s consent was invalid because it was based on an unconstitutional law.

The husband said he regrets signing the document and has since felt sorry for his wife, who had been looking forward to being a mother. He also said he feels guilty about being on the side of victimizer when he signed the consent form.

The plaintiffs also said it was illegal for the government to fail to provide relief to the couple after taking away any opportunity they had of bearing and raising a child.

The Hokkaido government said it does not have records of the woman’s procedure, but lawyers plan to ask the husband to testify in court about how his wife was forced to undergo the abortion and sterilization.

He and his wife are expected to explain the sadness and pain they still feel about the abortion.

Their lawsuit is the first filed by a couple over the forced sterilization policy.

So far, seven plaintiffs have filed such lawsuits against the government.

When lawsuits were filed at three district courts on May 17, the couple initially considered joining those plaintiffs.

However, after consulting with lawyers, the couple decided to wait until compensation for the abortion was also included in the lawsuit.

The other lawsuit on June 28 was submitted to the Kumamoto District Court by Kazumi Watanabe, a 73-year-old man with osteoarthritis, the first litigation filed in western Japan.

He says various health problems from the forced sterilization operation performed when he was 10 or 11 have continued to plague him, including fragile bones that easily fracture. One doctor told him he had a hormonal imbalance.

Watanabe is seeking 33 million yen in compensation on the grounds the forced sterilization violated his basic human rights.

The forced sterilization policy was scrapped in 1996, when the Eugenic Protection Law was revised and renamed the Maternal Health Law.

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