Do you remember the last time you randomly decided to get your tubes tied on the way to the doctor? 

Me neither.

While tubal ligation is not a major surgery rife with side effects, it is still surgery. Most people will consider it – seriously – before requesting it. So why does it seem to be something people assume is a fleeting fancy?

Women Making Decisions

Some women don’t want to have kids. Strong maternal instincts don’t drive everyone. Sure, some women get pregnant by accident and love their child(ren). But that in no way means other women would be happy with that situation or that those women who have kids would’ve been unhappy without them.

‘The Girl Who Cried Pain’ shows a clear, medical bias against women. This bias manifests in various ways throughout the medical community, but one of the most common is to filter women’s complaints through a ‘hysteria filter’. That is, women are thought to be overly dramatic, so their pain isn’t considered to be as serious as claimed. 

Many women report finding it difficult to convince a doctor they’re serious about being sterilized. In fact, many women are flat-out told they’ll wish they hadn’t done it. And sure, you can argue no one can know the future. You can also argue that some long-term contraceptives accomplish something similar. The problem lies in the idea that if you, as a woman, don’t want kids, then you aren’t a complete woman.

Patriarchal Roots of this Response

The main problem is most people have to be convinced women aren’t maternal because women are ‘supposed’ to be maternal. It’s what’s considered normal. In fact, a few years back, the CDC went as far as to recommend that all women of childbearing age start caring for their pre-conception health by doing things like avoiding alcohol, watching their weight and taking folic acid supplements.

While these tips are admittedly good for anyone’s health, many women found it distasteful that a government institution was asking women to behave as though they were already pregnant – even if they had no intention of conceiving. For many, it just confirmed what was already well-known — society tends to place all women, regardless of their personal goals and desires, into a neat little box of moms-to-be.

Women who don’t want kids don’t fit into the box. When they request sterilization, they’re sometimes turned down and told they’ll change their minds once they’ve matured. Women have reported offensive comments such as “What if you met a billionaire who wanted to have kids with you?”  

A doctor with this response is overstepping their bounds. There is no way for them to make that decision for you, and there are no legal limits on who can get a voluntary tubal ligation. Most methods of birth control have side effects, which some women find incredibly uncomfortable and can be life-threatening. Getting your tubes tied takes care of those problems, and the rate of complication from the noninvasive surgery is low.

That doesn’t mean your doctor shouldn’t talk to you. There is a risk some women are not aware of other options, or they’re being coerced into it. But for a woman risking pregnancy and abortion who has seriously considered her potential role as a mother and rejected it, a doctor has no real cause to deny that option.

The Irony of Coerced Sterilization

The male method of sterilization is a vasectomy. Vasectomies are similar to Russian roulette, where the reversal success rate is anywhere from 30-70%. This means that the success rate of men being able to impregnate their partners after a vasectomy reversal is 30-70%. In the cases of women, tubal ligation reversal leading to live births has a success rate between about 55-81%. This means that women actually have a higher chance of their reversals being successful and allowing them to become pregnant.

Obviously, there are complications associated with surgeries, and wanting to be careful is understandable. But women often face a lot of criticism and questioning from not just doctors, but also friends and family, when they bring up the idea of sterilization.

There are many reasons why a woman might want to go that route, success rate being just one potential reason. The assumption that a woman has not considered all these factors before requesting a surgery is inherently rooted in the systemic tendency to pass off a woman’s concerns as the result of her being misinformed or as some sort of hormone-induced hysteria.

Theoretically, any and all women who request a tubal ligation should be able to have it if they meet the age and medical requirements. Yet, many women still end up relying on vasectomies for their partners or dealing with the side effects of birth control simply because those around them succeed at talking them out of what they already know deep down.

If men can get vasectomies just by asking for them, why can’t women access the same thing (with even a little less risk) without a bunch of hullabaloo?

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