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Woman forced to abort 2nd child, be sterilized under eugenics law files suit

The plaintiff's legal representatives enter the Kumamoto District Court to file a lawsuit calling for compensation from the government due to damages from the defunct eugenic protection law, in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward, on Jan. 29, 2019. (Mainichi/Kohei Shimizu)

KUMAMOTO -- A woman filed a lawsuit at the district court here on Jan. 29 seeking compensation from the government, saying she was forced under the eugenic protection law (1948-1996) to abort her second child and undergo sterilization surgery because her first child was judged to have a disability.

The 72-year-old woman, who lives in Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan, is demanding 33 million yen in redress. While lawsuits concerning the eugenics law are currently being argued in the Tokyo, Sendai, Sapporo and other district courts nationwide, this is an exceptional case, as the woman's first child's disability was given as the justification for the sterilization operation.

She is the second to file a suit in the Kumamoto District Court. Fellow prefectural resident Kazumi Watanabe, 74, is also seeking 33 million yen in compensation from the government for reportedly having his testicles removed when he was around 10 years old.

The plaintiff's legal representatives hold a press conference after filing a lawsuit with the Kumamoto District Court calling for compensation from the government due to damages from the defunct eugenic protection law, in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward, on Jan. 29, 2019. (Mainichi/Kohei Shimizu)

According to her legal representatives, when the 72-year-old woman was in her 20s and became pregnant with her second child, the doctor advised she have an abortion, saying, "Your first child has a disability. (The second) will not grow up properly, either." Along with the abortion, she also had her fallopian tubes tied, sterilizing her. Due to the emotional scars she suffered from the experience, each time she sees parents and children together, she wishes she could have given birth to her second child. She claims she feels "something that goes beyond hate" for the government.

The woman herself was never diagnosed with any disabilities, and her legal team insists, "It is clear that this surgery was based on the former eugenics law, which stipulated that 'eugenic surgeries can be performed with the authorization of a doctor if it is found that disabilities are hereditary in the family.'"

Meanwhile, the first arguments in the Sendai District Court trial concerning compensation for the forced eugenic surgeries on a total of three men and women in Miyagi Prefecture in northeast Japan was held on Jan. 28. The government, which is the defendant in the suit, stated it would fight the suit, but avoided touching on the constitutionality of the now-defunct law.

During the arguments, the legal representatives for the plaintiffs pointed out that "the (eugenics) law infringes upon the reproductive rights granted by Article 13 of the Constitution, and after the revision of the law (in 1996), the government did not pass necessary redress legislation" for the victims of the sterilizations and other procedures. In response, the government side claimed, "Over 20 years has passed since the surgery, and the statute of limitations for the plaintiffs' right to claim compensation has already run out," among other arguments.

(Japanese original by Kohei Shimizu, Kumamoto Bureau, and Hiroshi Endo, Sendai Bureau)

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