Health minister: Birth control given to prevent dangerous Orang Asli pregnancies

Dzulkefly stressed that the birth control medication was not permanent and those given the injections would be able to conceive once it wears off. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Dzulkefly stressed that the birth control medication was not permanent and those given the injections would be able to conceive once it wears off. — Picture by Farhan Najib

SUNGKAI, July 11 — Contraceptive injections were given to Orang Asli only in cases where pregnancy would be a health risk, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said today, following claims of forced administration on the community.

He asserted that his ministry’s family planning programme for the indigenous community only gave such birth control medication to women already with health issues such as anaemia that could result in dangerous pregnancies.

“The plan was launched based on the government's responsibility to protect them from unfit pregnancies. It is very important to avoid pregnancy in that particular period.

“If the (red blood cell) count is low, we will refer them for the medication as it is not safe for them to get pregnant,” he told a press conference after launching the Orang Asli teeth icon programme at Kampung Orang Asli Menderang 1 here.

Dzulkefly also stressed that the birth control medication was not permanent and those given the injections would be able to conceive once it wears off.

However, he did not specify the exact birth control drug used on the Orang Asli.

Dzulkefly was responding to a group of Orang Asli women from the northern part of the peninsula who alleged they were forced to take the birth control medication either via injection or orally.

They further alleged of short- and long-term side effects to their health as a result of the medication.

Yesterday, Malay Mail reported that several women had handed over a memorandum of understanding to the government detailing their plight, which includes this issue.

The Orang Asli women claimed to have suffered dizziness and body aches as well as deformities in the children conceived following the administration of the birth control.

Centre of Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Colin Nicholas, who was also present today, alleged that Orang Asli were not given all the details and information of the birth control medication before it was administered.