Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

Doctors shouldn’t decide if a woman can be sterilized

What’s the right answer for women seeking permanent sterilization? Their rights or their doctor’s conscience?

For women like Maggie, the decision to not have children is a no-brainer.

Maggie is a woman in her 30s who, unlike many of her peers, is not fighting a biological clock. Probably because she has never wanted children, but more than likely, because Maggie also got sterilized — at the age of 23.

Like most women who seek permanent sterilization, Maggie had a difficult time finding a doctor who would do the procedure for her. It wasn’t until she became accidentally pregnant and had an abortion that the medical community seemed to realize she was actually serious about her intent to never have children. She finally found a doctor (a female one, at that) who agreed to sterilize her.

While Maggie’s choice may not be a mainstream one, she’s definitely not the only young woman who has sought sterilization. “Over and over again male and female doctors would question my judgment. You’re too young, they told me, and you might change your mind. I was actually told by one of my doctors that I should give up because doctors probably wouldn’t help me until I was closer to menopause or if I’ve already had children,” one woman said.

As a woman who had an unplanned pregnancy, I definitely have mixed feelings about the sterilization-no-sterilization debate. On one hand, I think it’s impossible to predict what becoming a mother is like until you become one and, like in my case, even when it happened and I didn’t feel ready, I can safely say it was the best thing to ever to happen to me.

But that was me and my life situation and it’s hard to say that other women would have the same experience. I think the issue lies in the fact that so many of us know that we think, with a lot of certainty when we’re young, that having kids sounds akin to torture — only to change our minds later. I would hate to think that a woman might miss out on something she may actually love because of a decision she made fresh out of college. I mean, not to be crass here, but tattoo removals are a thing, right? So a doctor faced with a 23-year-old woman demanding permanent sterilization is acting hesitantly out of fear of doing a lot of damage to a lot of lives someday if that woman changes her mind.

But on the other hand, it doesn’t really seem to me like it should be a doctor’s decision at all when you get right down to it. Sure, there are moral and ethical and religious debates galore we could get into here, but bottom line, what we are really talking about here is the question of whether or not a woman can actually decide for herself if she wants children or not, before she ever risks getting pregnant in the first place — or if a doctor gets to make that call.

What do you think? Should a woman — at any age — have the right to choose permanent sterilization for herself?

More on family planning

Should I freeze my eggs?
Unemployed women should be sterilized, says Arizona government official
How often are tubal reversals successful?

Leave a Comment