National / Social Issues

Protest targets Hyogo hospital chief's comment calling past campaign to sterilize disabled 'unique'

Kyodo

For many months, people with disabilities have demanded that a hospital in Hyogo Prefecture remove a published comment by its honorary chief — who characterized a government campaign to sterilize mentally disabled people decades ago as “a unique movement,” several people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

In an article published last year commemorating the relocation of the facility, the honorary director of Kobe Children’s Hospital wrote that the sterilization program promoted by the prefectural government in the 1960s and 1970s was “the first such policy in Japan and a unique movement.”

Disabled people demanded that the hospital remove the comment, saying it promotes discrimination and covers up the fact that protests by disabled people led to the end of the program.

The prefecture ran the campaign in 1966 as a “measure not to give birth to unfortunate children,” covering the fees for sterilization of mentally disabled people and some others. In 1974, a prefectural government department in charge of the program was abolished.

An official from the Hyogo Prefectural Government said the campaign was “inappropriate when judged from today’s values.”

A hospital official denied any intention to praise the program, saying the article just described the social situation at the time of the hospital’s foundation in 1970.

Masayo Furui, a 64-year-old Osaka resident with cerebral palsy who is leading the protest, said, “I was surprised to learn about the expression. It disregards the feelings of the disabled and is intolerable.”

Under the 1948 Eugenic Protection Law, sterilization without the consent of mentally disabled people was permitted in Japan. The law was renamed in 1996 and the clause on sterilization due to mental disability, psychiatric disorder and hereditary disease was dropped.