Unknowingly Kept From Having Kids, They Want a Nation to Pay

67 women in Greenland demand Denmark provide compensation for involuntary birth control
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2023 12:36 PM CDT
Unknowingly Kept From Having Kids, They Want a Nation to Pay
A doctor holds an intrauterine birth control device.   (Getty Images/Liudmila Chernetska)

A group of women are demanding Greenland's former colonial ruler Denmark pay millions of dollars in compensation for an involuntary birth-control campaign launched in the 1960s to limit births among Greenland's Indigenous population. Records show 4,500 intrauterine devices were fitted into females as young as 13 without their knowledge or consent between 1966 and 1970, as told in a 2022 podcast from Danish broadcaster DR. Greenland's government believes 35% of women of childbearing age had been fitted with an IUD by the end of 1969, though the campaign is thought to have continued for years beyond that date, the BBC reports. Denmark controlled Greenland's health system until 1991.

The governments of Greenland and Denmark have launched an official investigation, with a report due in May 2025. But the women, some of whom are nearing their 80s, see no reason to wait. "It's already 100% clear that the government has broken the law by violating our human rights and causing us serious harm," says Naja Lyberth, one of 67 women seeking compensation. She notes some women only recently learned the devices were in their bodies, while others were fitted with too-large devices that caused serious health complications or infertility, the Guardian reports. "We are getting older ... We want to act now," Lyberth, a psychologist, adds, per the BBC.

The group is calling for Denmark to pay 300,000 Danish kroner, or about $42,000, to each of the women, per Reuters. A lawyer for the group submitted the claim to the office of Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Monday, though the office has yet to comment. Lyberth, who accuses the Danish government of wanting to control Greenland's population to save on welfare costs, says she expects it will refuse the request pending the outcome of its commission. However, she says the women are prepared to take the matter to court in that case. Only last year, CNN reported that Denmark paid compensation to Inuit victims who were taken from their families in Greenland as part of a 1950s experiment. (More Greenland stories.)

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