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Aboriginal woman sterilized against her will

Melissa Popp wants you to know she’s not a victim. She’s a survivor.

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When Popp went into Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital for help with gestational diabetes and cramping, she had no plans to undergo a tubal ligation procedure that would leave her unable to have children.

“Having my reproductive organs crippled, robs my children of future siblings and my ability to pass on future aboriginal title and rights to land,” Popp told CBC. “As a mother I cannot tell you what this has done to my inner core.” 

Popp said she felt “very harassed” by medical staff at the hospital, as a nurse demanded to know why she hadn’t been using condoms and what birth control she used. Two months later, she wound up suffering from a placental abruption and had to go back to the hospital for a Caesarian section.

But rather than simply give her a Caesarian section, she says the doctors also asked her to sign consent forms for a tubal ligation, making false claims that the procedure “would be reversible, with no side effects.”

“I feel very targeted. It was under duress. I was so hormonal at that time,” Popp said.

She’s not alone

Three other Saskatoon women recently told CBC that they faced a similar ordeal at the same hospital.

Brenda Pelletier — at the time a recovering addict — said that after she gave birth to her youngest daughter, a social worker hounded her to sign a consent form to get her tubes tied, “constantly, like every couple hours… non-stop, all day, all night.”

When she was in the operating room, Pelletier remembers “laying there, scared enough, not wanting this done, even telling her I didn’t want it done.”

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Apology not enough

Hospital officials have apologized to Pelletier and another woman who came forward.

“When I met with the women I felt very sorry,” Jackie Mann, vice-president for integrated health services told CBC. “I expressed to them my apology that the experience they had in our care. It’s not the kind of experience we would ever want a woman to have in our care.”

But considering that these women appear to have had their right to have children stripped from them, an apology is likely cold comfort.

Mann says they’re changing their practices to ensure women who get their tubes tied actually want the procedure done: “We want to ensure that that woman has had that conversation [about whether to have a tubal ligation] with her physician prior to coming to the hospital.” The hospital also says they’re in the process of hiring an outside investigator to conduct a review of the situation

Popp feels that she and the other women were targeted because they are aboriginal.

“It’s systemic racism,” she said. “That’s a form of cultural genocide.”

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