The Family Court of Australia in Brisbane has granted the application of the parents of a disabled girl who want their daughter to undergo an invasive medical procedure for the purposes of sterilisation.
In a move which has outraged some advocates for the disabled, Justice Cronin handed down his decision on 16th February 2010, granting permission for a hysterectomy to be performed on the 11 year old.
Carolyn Frohmader from Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) told Australian Women Online today, her organisation has been lobbying for more than a decade for the introduction of national legislation to prohibit the sterilisation of minors.
“It’s now four years since the United Nations committee that oversees the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, recommended that the Australian Government introduce such legislation. But to date, successive governments have failed to act on that recommendation,” said Ms Frohmader.
“Our position is consistent with the International Human Rights treaties to which Australia is a signatory to, particularly the ratified Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which was entered into by the Australian Government in 2008. That convention clearly articulates the right of people with disabilities, including children, to retain their fertility.”
Queensland Liberal Senator Sue Boyce, a disability rights advocate and a former President of the Down Syndrome Association of Queensland, has written to the Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland, asking him to appeal the decision of Justice Cronin to the Full Bench of the Family Court of Australia.
“I have also asked the Attorney General if he can explain why Family Court Rules – specifically Chapter 1V, Rule 4.09 cited by Justice Cronin in his decision – provides a pathway for judges when they are considering a Medical Procedure Application, yet there is no mention at all of the human rights of people with disabilities and to Australia being a signatory to the CRPD,” said Senator Boyce.
“If necessary, the appeal should go to the High Court because if it remains unchallenged it will be regarded as a precedent and that could mean more children with disabilities being subjected to this treatment.”
Senator Boyce maintains this issue was one of fundamental human rights for children with disabilities and has also written to the the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Graeme Innes, urging him to ask the Federal Attorney General to appeal the decision.
“Every Australian would be appalled if an 11 year old girl without a disability was sterilised with legal blessing. It’s completely discriminatory and inhumane to treat a girl with a disability any differently,” she said.
“I know of young women with a disability who have wanted a baby and have then discovered to their horror that they had been sterilised when they were a child. The only reason for courts to get involved in the sterilisation of any minor or any person with a disability must be a life-threatening illness.”