When the medical profession interferes with our choices

By Victoria Fryer 

I’ve thought a lot in the past about ways to permanently ensure that I won’t get pregnant — whether it be through tubal ligation, nonsurgical permanent birth control, or a partner’s vasectomy. But the reality is that sometimes we’re not even allowed to make those choices when we believe we’re ready. A recent personal essay published on Narratively recounts a woman’s efforts to undergo a sterilization (can I just mention here that I hate that word? I’m just not sure what other word to use, so forgive me in advance if it sounds very crass) procedure and details the ways in which medical professionals tried to convince her otherwise.

So many people operate under the assumption that a woman will change her mind about not having children, that it infiltrates into professional decisions that affect our lives and our health.

When we talk about respecting women’s choices to have or not to have children, I think this is one of the most important aspects. Sure, it’s annoying to have family titter at the dinner table about how “you’re selfish,” or “you’ll change your mind.” But it’s quite another to have to risk an unwanted pregnancy because your medical professional assumes that eventually, you would regret sterilization.

I myself have talked to my women’s health professional about possible options for sterilization. Though she listened to me and was relatively respectful of my concerns, she also indicated that I should wait a little while longer before making such a permanent decision.

I don’t know how one person is to prove to another that you’re sure, you’re absolutely sure. I don’t even know how to fully BE absolutely sure. Is there a percentage of sure that tips you over into “okay to sterilize” territory? Or are we just supposed to take the risk and hope for the best?

I do know that I don’t want a doctor attempting to make decisions about my life for me. If I’ve undergone the kind of soul searching required to make such a permanent decision about my own body, I should be allowed to do so.

I don’t personally know anyone who’s pursued a sterilization procedure without a medical reason to do so or who didn’t already have children, so I’m curious if any of you have had experiences with it? Did your doctor take you seriously right away and give the go-ahead for the procedure, or did you have to jump through hoops?

Victoria Fryer is a writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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