A Saskatoon woman who says she was sterilized against her will is welcoming the launch of an external review of the Saskatoon Health Region’s tubal ligation policies.
‘The effects it’s had on my body alone has been devastating.’ - Melika Popp
Melika Popp told CBC News in December 2015 she was pressured into the sterilization procedure by staff at the Royal University Hospital in 2008 after she had a caesarean section.
She is just one of several women with similar stories.
“This has not been an easy journey,” Popp said on Friday, after the region announced an external review of Indigenous women who felt pressured to consent to tubal ligations after the birth of a child had begun.
“The effects it’s had on my body alone has been devastating,” she said.
Still, Popp said an external review must happen.
“I’m grateful that I have this opportunity to speak about this very important human rights violation that has to be addressed, that needs to be corrected,” Popp said on Friday, after the region announced the external review has begun.
“A huge part of a woman’s identity is in her ability to have children. When that’s taken from you — coercively — it really, really interferes with your ability — my ability — to function as a woman,” Popp said.
The Saskatoon Health Region named Dr. Yvonne Boyer, a lawyer and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous health and wellness at Brandon University, and Dr. Judy Bartlett, a physician and former professor with the College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, to conduct the review.
Jackie Mann, vice-president of integrated health services with the Saskatoon Health Region, says although the review will be paid for by the region, the process will be independent.
“They will conduct the interviews with the clients who are willing to have those interviews and with our staff confidentially and independently and then they will provide us with their recommendations from the work that they do,” Mann said.
The region says the review should be complete by the spring. It promises to make the recommendations public, while protecting the stories of any women who want confidentiality.
After women such as Popp began speaking out, the Saskatoon Health Region changed its procedures to require written documentation showing a woman had given consent to a physician for a tubal ligation before entering the hospital to give birth.
The health region’s director of maternal services, Leanne Smith, said the new policy is designed to ensure consent is not given when a woman is in a vulnerable position.
Smith said she has spoken to four women who claim they were pressured into a tubal ligation, but that does not include at least two women who have spoken to media.
The region encourages any woman who has not yet come forward to contact the SHR’s First Nations and Métis Health Service in confidence by calling 306-655-0546 or 306-655-0176.