By Jeff Mason, Idrees Ali and Catherine E. Shoichet
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. government order that detainees undergo sterilization procedures has prevented them from receiving health care from another government entity, the U.S. government said on Thursday, as a federal judge raised concerns it was violating their rights.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said the court-supervised order for sterilization requires the inmate’s risk of injury from the procedure to be reduced if they do not comply with the order.
It also would prevent them from being seen by their own physician, who sterilized their wombs at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2014.
“A decision by the (government’s) attorney to refuse to provide care does not sit well with Plaintiffs and could make their health conditions more complicated, and more susceptible to other adverse health consequences,” Kaplan wrote.
Kaplan, a former federal judge in New York, took up the case as a landmark decision in the 1980s that established standards of conduct for medical staff in Guantanamo prison camps.
Kaplan’s order involved a group of about 150 women in violation of their civil rights.
Kaplan ordered that the order be enforced for two months beginning last Friday, despite a motion on Thursday to dismiss the case.
Justice Department lawyers argued in court filings late on Thursday that the order is necessary because “the government cannot guarantee that it will be granted funding necessary to develop the sterilization regimen.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has yet to respond.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that while the order runs afoul of a U.S. government mandate to protect religious beliefs, it does not violate the detainees’ right to privacy.
The women say they suffer from multiple-systemic disorders including muscle weakness, diverticulitis, breathing difficulties, compromised sleep and urinary tract disease.(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Idrees Ali; Editing by Leslie Adler)