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A little while back, I inquired about what it would take to have a tubal ligation. The reasons why are immaterial — what struck me was the downright antediluvian responses many physicians give women requesting the procedure. I soon became privy to the imaginary rule that to get a tubal, a woman has to reach a certain age, pop out the requisite two and a half kids and get a note from her husband before a doctor will grant her wish.
Just as a woman’s decision to have an abortion belongs to her and her alone, a woman’s desire to get sterilised shouldn’t require anyone’s outside input. Ironically, the same people who want to take away a woman’s right to choose also seem to want to control whether or not she can have the necessary surgery to ensure she doesn’t become pregnant in the first place. Doctors need to quit treating adult women like children and refusing to believe they really do know best when it comes to their own health.
Maternal Instinct Doesn’t Come from a Uterus
News flash, folks: Having the right organs for pregnancy in no way means a woman wants to become a parent. Becoming a mother changes a woman’s entire life, and not everyone wants to adapt to those changes. Just like some men prefer to focus on their career aspirations or indulge their globetrotting wanderlust over parenthood, some women want the same.
The idea that any female has interests that don’t revolve around changing diapers and dabbing spit-up stains out of their shirts genuinely boggles some people’s minds. A man who goes to the doctor requesting a vasectomy stands a good chance of getting snipped that very day, regardless of their age. A young woman wanting the same often receives a, “You’ll change your mind when you get older, you’ll see,” before being shown the door.
The mistaken concept that all women view procreation as the be-all and end-all of their lives goes back to the Puritanical assumption that women should be subservient to men. Doctors stand between women and their desire to get their tubes tied because someday, they might get married and their future husband might want kids. In essence, those darling docs send a message to all women that their bodies belong not to them, but to men they haven’t even met yet.
Refusing Women’s Wishes Cheapens Motherhood
In a way, the hypocrisy doctors and society alike display toward women seeking sterilisation explains how so many people who claim to be “pro-life” aren’t waving signs demanding Congress feed the roughly 13 million American children who go to bed hungry at night. If they truly cared about decreasing the need for abortion, they’d be standing outside gynaecology offices demanding physicians respect women’s requests to have their tubes tied. The underlying issue has never been about saving lives — it’s about controlling the sexual behaviour of women.
Assuming anyone with the correct reproductive organs can morph magically into a mother cheapens the most demanding labor of love in the world. Once a year in May, pundits pay lip service to all the work moms do, then go right back to taking women’s child-rearing efforts for granted. Motherhood is one of the most challenging jobs imaginable.
Few would suggest that because men have higher levels of testosterone than women do, they all must battle in the octagon or dig ditches in the summer sun nonstop for 18 years. But somehow, because estrogen gives females the ability to give birth to another human being, they’re expected to do so.
Refusing Tubal Ligation Denies Reality and Perpetuates Poverty
The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any developed nation. The U.S. also boasts the highest infant mortality rate of the top 20 wealthiest countries. Why?
America stands unique among developed nations in that access to health care hinges on a woman’s employer. And in today’s gig economy, many young people have no coverage. Lack of health insurance can mean going without prenatal care, which significantly increases the health risks of pregnancy.
Forcing women to give birth when they lack adequate financial means to provide for an infant perpetuates the cycle of poverty. If a woman is paid hourly instead of salaried, she loses money not only every time she falls ill — her pay check decreases each time her child gets sick, too. If she lacks the support of a spouse or other family members, she suddenly finds herself with a ton of new expenses when she may have already been struggling to get by.
The recent actions of the Trump administration in allowing employers to deny birth control coverage to women lucky enough to have health insurance through their work further burdens women. Having to pay for birth control out of pocket burdens women economically, whereas an insurance plan may cover tubal ligation — if, that is, she can convince her doctor to provide the procedure.
Children raised in poverty run higher risks of struggling economically themselves once they reach adulthood. They are less likely to pursue higher education and often find keeping steady employment difficult. And so, the cycle continues.
Adult Women Can Make Choices for Themselves
Any woman aged 18 or older should have her request for a tubal ligation honoured, regardless of her reason for wanting one. The reality is we allow 18-year-olds to do a lot of things that can have lasting, sometimes permanent, results. If she’s old enough to:
- Use tobacco products, which kill over 480,000 people every year in the U.S.
- Get a permanent tattoo.
- Buy a car.
- Fight and die in the armed forces.
I’d say she’s old enough to make her own decisions regarding her desire (or lack thereof) to someday become a parent.
Deciding whether or not to bear children marks the most profoundly personal choice many women will make. No gynaecologist is going to pay a house call in the middle of the night to calm a croupy child. No obstetrician will drive all the kids they’ve delivered to school or cook them nutritious meals.
It’s well past time for society to move away from the antiquated idea that a woman’s body belongs to the public domain. Women’s bodies and reproductive choices belong to them alone, and only they are the experts on whether or not they want to start a family. Doctors need to cut the condescending crap and respect a woman’s request for a tubal ligation with the same impartiality they’d show if she needed an appendectomy. If they want to moralise, they can switch careers and become ministers — but until they do, their job is to respect a woman’s dominion over her health and self.