No, I’m not planning a tubal ligation; I think that there will be more children in my future (although not any planned for the immediate future). I read a blog post about women wanting to be sterilized, and being turned down because they were childless and single and “may change their minds in the future.”
While I understand that people change their minds, and the way they feel today does not prove that they will always feel that way (look at how people are keeping tattoo removal places in business!), I wonder at the condescending attitude displayed by the doctors who refuse to sterilize a woman who absolutely does not want children. The kicker of this blog post is that it displayed comments by women who had undergone multiple abortions, and were desperately trying to find a doctor to do a ligation so that they could not get pregnant again. There were comments from women who had had 5 and even 10 abortions. Some of the women had been on chemical birth control and/or used condoms all the time, yet still ended up pregnant. Sometimes they said they used the birth control perfectly; other times they did not (a week late for a Depo-Provera shot, for example).
I can understand doctors being reluctant to perform such an procedure that will forever prevent a man or a woman from having a child (reversals happen, but they’re not guaranteed), but it almost sounds like the doctors are “patting the little girl on the head” — “Oh, honey, I know you say you don’t want children, but you’re young and single and you’ve never had a child — how do you know you won’t change your mind some day when you meet Mr. Right?” It’s not a procedure to be taken lightly; but neither is an abortion — which was the alternative these women chose. They seemed to be commiserating how difficult it was to get their records to prove their past abortions, in order for them to show a doctor just how serious they were about not wanting children and never wanting children.
Tubal ligation is an elective procedure, like plastic surgery or gastric bypass — it’s not to be taken lightly, and the patients should be screened to make sure they’re serious and that they understand what they’re going to be going through — protecting patients and doctors — informed consent and all that. But why is there such a hurdle for these women?
There is no guarantee that a married woman with children will not change her mind, regret her tubal ligation decision, and wish she had more children. My mom had her tubes tied after she had me, because 4 kids in 6 years was just plain tough… but she said she sometimes regretted her decision and wished she could have had more children. At the time, she didn’t know anyone with larger families, but when I was about 6 we changed churches and met families that had 5, 6, 8, 9, and even 12 kids. Had she had such a group around her, she may have made a different decision at the time. Then there are women who get divorced and remarried and wish they could have a child with the new husband. Or women who lose their child(ren) in some way and wish they could have more — when the tsunami hit Asia a few years ago, there were thousands of women like that — all of their children died in the wave, but they were sterilized and couldn’t have any more. Or a child gets cancer or some other disease and the parents wish to try for another child for a good donor match of some sort, since full siblings have the greatest likelihood of being good matches.
When one of my friends had her first baby, she was asked as a matter of form after the birth if she wanted her tubes tied; she said yes (she’s not a big fan of birth, to say the least). Her husband shook his head, so she changed her answer. She didn’t really want her tubes tied — she was just asked that question at a vulnerable time for her. Going into her second labor, she told her doctor not to even ask the question, because she knew she’d say yes but wouldn’t really mean it. It’s just surprising to me that one doctor would ask a first-time mom right after birth if she wanted her tubes tied while another doctor would refuse that procedure to a woman who had had multiple abortions because just didn’t want children.
And you know what’s even worse? Doctors performing C-sections on mothers and then refusing VBACs, which may effectively limit the size of their family to two or three children, for little to no good reason. I’ve heard some women be told that they could only have 3 C-sections; and the risks increase exponentially with every surgery. But why do doctors refuse a tubal ligation for one gyne patient because “she may want [more] children later” while doing an unnecessary C-section on another patient despite the fact that she may want a large family? Just ridiculous.