A Senate committee is looking into the controversial practice of sterilising disabled people, something many Australians are shocked to find is legal.
The UN is pushing for the practice to be banned and the Federal Government says it is looking at possible changes to laws.
The situation faced by the parents of disabled women is not black and white.
In one submission to the Senate inquiry, a mother explained the decision to stop her intellectually disabled daughter becoming pregnant.
"Her own life is not stable enough to support another life," the submission said.
"The reality is if this person had a child, that child would be dead within a week. Human services would have to be involved."
The woman's daughter is 27 and had a contraceptive device implanted four years ago to manage her periods.
The mother says she would not make the decision for anyone else, but with much thought and agonising she says her daughter should never have a child.
The anonymous submission says it is the right decision, given the disabled woman now has a boyfriend.
"Why would we wait until tragedy strikes and then in hindsight wish things had been different?" the submission said.
Dr Margaret Spencer works with a legal service for people with disabilities in Sydney.
She has two foster daughters who are intellectually disabled and are mothers themselves.
She says she felt the same when one of her daughters became pregnant eight years ago.
"I can totally empathise with this mother. My heart was, you know ... my heart sank," she said.
"It was, like, how are we going to deal with this? My reaction was one of, 'she can't go through with this'.
"And I'm a person who's an advocate in this area, I have my PhD in this area, so I know where this mother is coming from.
"But it's also not my place to take away my daughter's - something that's very integral and very much part of who she is as a person."
Dr Spencer's two foster daughters are raising her five grandchildren, none of whom are disabled.
She says women with disabilities are coerced into contraception or abortions.
"I had one mother who'd had three terminations done by her local doctor. She thought it was her first child - she didn't realise the three times before that she'd been pregnant," she said.
"It was only that her mother went to the doctor and said to the doctor what was happening for her daughter, and he said 'That's a shame because if she'd come here I could have dealt with it like the other ones'."
Disability no barrier
Dr Spencer says there is now a solid body of evidence that being disabled is often no barrier to being a good parent, if the right support is in place.
"They're very hurt, they feel betrayed, they feel denied something that is in essence basic to them," she said.
Advocates say that when a woman is too severely disabled to raise a child, other contraception is more appropriate.
As the inquiry submission shows, parents of women with disabilities are also mindful of the rights of the child.
"Advocates who say she has the right to have a child need to factor in her ability to be responsible for that child," one submission said.
At the moment, sterilisations must be approved by the Family Court or a state guardianship tribunal.
Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes says some parents sterilise their disabled daughters without approval and it should be a crime to do so.
Dr Leanne Dowse from the University of New South Wales says the method is widely known.
"It's well known that you're able to doctor shop, so that there will be doctors who will be prepared to perform not necessarily full hysterectomy, but around things like endometrial ablation and other kinds of very invasive and very traumatic procedures which have the same effect," she said.
"The procedure might actually be against their mother's Medicare number, for instance. That's an example that's been told to me."
The Senate inquiry has begun because the United Nations wants non-therapeutic sterilisations banned in Australia, including those without consent.
In a statement to The World Today, a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says much of the law that governs sterilisation is at the state and territory level.
She says the Federal Government will consider the outcomes of the Senate inquiry.
The inquiry is taking submissions until next February, with the report due late April next year.
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