Fit To Be Tied: A Woman’s Right to Choose?

In 2006, I asked my doctor about getting my tubes tied so I wouldn’t have to worry about exploding with toddlers.

I was 30. He said no, that if a woman hasn’t had a child already, they typically won’t tie tubes when a woman’s under 35.

I’ll be 37 this fall and nothing has changed: My tubes are untied, I’ve never had a child, I never want one.

Moments, however, pass.

For a fleeting second, I’ll see a mom and her daughter, and the exchange is so silly and cute, that I smile fondly and remember my own mother and the bond we shared. I’ll never have that?

Yeah, I know. I’ll never have that. Yes, it’s a choice I’ve long made, and, yes, my choice sometimes saddens me.

But I know why I’ve made my choices, and I’ll stick to them. I’ve NEVER wanted to have a kid. And after life got hijacked by bad times, well, I want to sacrifice whats left of my life to a kid even less.

Even as a kid, I didn’t pretend my dolly was “my baby.” I’ve always liked kids, never wanted one.

This, unfortunately, makes me pretty unique.

Last night, some Twitter friends were caught in a debate about this news story out of Ontario, in which a young family has decided they’re full up on tykes. They don’t want any other kids beyond their two. Part of that young family is pictured here.

But she’s 21 and her husband is 23, so doctors won’t let her do a tubal ligation. She’s too young, too much life can happen, they say.

Now, I’m a woman, so I guess I should agree with the mom and dad, right? A woman’s body, woman’s right?

But I don’t.

I see their point. It makes great sense. And in a perfect world where parents have kids and kids grow up healthy and strong, it DOES make great sense.

But it’s not a perfect world. Marriages end, families split. Kids get sick. They die.

This mother could conceivably have more kids until she’s double her age. DOUBLE. Are her choices are coming from the right place? Is she just agreeing to a tubal ligation so they don’t have to risk having more kids, so they don’t have to buy contraceptives and fuss around?

Because getting tubes tied is no guarantee. A woman can conceive after a tubal ligation and it can be fatal.  My former sister-in-law almost died when she had a tubal pregnancy — it happened so quickly, too. Like a flash, she was hemorrhaging on a table and likely to die, leaving a 2-year-old boy to mourn her.

Luckily, she was saved. Miraculously, she reversed the procedure and, a decade later, has a new baby. With a new husband.

It’s not that no woman can make this decision and be sure, it’s that decisions like this are often made too lightly — even by “older, wiser” types.

Should it be allowed for young women to say, “No, I know what I want, and it’s not a KID” so they can have their tubes tied off? What do YOU think?

I’m torn. Yes, it should be allowed, but it should be a very hard decision to reach, and should be scrutinized by all involved, including a mental health practitioner.

Personally, I think a 21– and 23-year-old don’t know shit about life yet, so to think they’re “all done” is cute, at best.

But I get it. I understand.

Still, their ages aren’t in their favour.

I’ll be the first to admit I know what it’s like to be 21 and pissed that everyone thinks they know more about life than I do. I was a very wise 21-year-old and I took it personally when people questioned my age-appropriate wisdom.

But now I’m 36 and I’m telling you, I knew jack shit about life then. I had some ideas, but I’ve had a whole lot of years of confirmation and debunking since. When I’m 50, I’ll likely be able to say that about the age I am now, too. That’s life.

We grow, we change, we learn.

At 21, I’m pretty sure this woman has much to learn about life. And maybe she’s right and she’ll never have more kids.

Maybe.

But maybe she’ll be another marriage statistic with a broken home. Maybe a tragic accident will take the rest of her family from her.

Maybe.

Tragedies don’t just happen to OTHER people. Life doesn’t go according to plan. We’re stupidly naive little humans.

The doctors know this. It’s certainly worth their considering — especially when they spend 15–30 minutes tops with us for each appointment.

And if the only avenue doctors have is to say, “Well, you’re 21. SERIOUSLY,”  then there you go, maybe we need to hang onto that — because the wise among us are rare, and most people make decisions with knee-jerk considerations, not the gravity matters deserve.

But what do YOU think, and why?

Quick Facts:

  • SOME tubal ligations can be reversed. 6% of American women with tied tubes try  to reverse the procedure.
  • Depending on biology, it can often be done but chances of success depend drastically case-by-case.
  • 75% of tubal ligation reversals are as a result of divorcing and wanting kids with the new spouse.
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This entry was posted in Current Events, Dimestore Philosophy, feminism, Hygiene & Health, keeping it real, Opinion (Editorial & Commentary), relationships, Sex, Society, Women's Department and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

26 Comments

  1. Posted May 20, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    i’m pretty radical here. once you’re of voting age, you can make your own decisions. if you can decide to have an abortion, to have kids, to get into a car drunk, you can decide to have your tubes tied. all of these decisions are or at least can be life impacting.

    a good friend of mine, at the time 24, wanted to have her tubes tied right after the first baby. she and her doctor agreed she would wait a year. on day 365 she marched right into his office to get the procedure done. she has one child who she loves with all her heart but she just does not want to go through a pregnancy again. will she regret that when she’s 40? who knows. if she does, it won’t be the first “wrong” decision she’s made, nor the last.
    .-= isabella mori´s last blog ..tony schwartz: the way we’re working isn’t working =-.

  2. Posted May 20, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    She’s an adult. She’s entitled to do what she wants with her body. It’s her decision.

    Will she regret it someday? Perhaps. But it will be her regret.

    We all make choices and we then live with the consequences of those choices. To have anyone tell anyone of legal age what she can or can’t do is ridiculous.

    I agree with you, Steff, that younger adults think they have it all figured out, but we can’t live others lives for them. We can certainly say to someone like her, “Are you sure? You might want more kids later.”

    And she can say, “Yep, I’ve thought about that. And I want this procedure.”

    And then we should step out of her way and a medical professional should perform what they’re being asked to perform.
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Astrological … =-.

  3. Posted May 20, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    To preface, I want children, I love them and can’t wait to start a family. I’m not saying TL shouldn’t be allowed (at any age of majority), but I’m confused as to why people would want it? The rhythms of my body are how I know everything is good or not…to derail that train of information about what is going on in my body system for no real reason seems like a strange idea.

    There are so many contraceptive options available to the modern person, non-life-saving/health-saving surgery seems like an extreme choice.

  4. jax
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    alesse is $20 a month. The End.

  5. Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Interesting.

    Is the decision patronzing to women? Or is it a case of biological reality? A vasectomy is much less invasive. Tubal ligation is a more complicated surgery and carries greater risks than a vasectomy.

    I’m in my 40s and I have witnessed quite a few people/couples “change their minds” in their late 30s and go one to have children. They were ready. It takes longer these days!

    That all said, no one has to have children and I defend the right of anyone not to. Just don’t slam the door shut too early or put your health as risk before you’ve been around a good long time.
    .-= harrietglynn´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  6. Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    For the longest time I thought I didn’t want kids. Now reaching into my late 20’s I’m starting to think that perhaps one day I’ll have one. So I agree with you Steph. So many things change and you never know where you’ll be in the years to come.

    But to go slightly off topic. If they won’t let her get her tubes tied. Why doesn’t he just get snipped? I think one of my biggest pet peeves is that the burden of not only birth control but also pregnancy seems to always be placed on a woman. I took birth control for 10 years until this past Winter. Went off. Lost some hair (you grow more hair while on some birth control) lost some weight and felt fine. Just recently I got into a monogamous relationship and decided to go back on the pill for a lovely 30 bucks a month. I promptly gained all the weight back and felt like garbage for a couple months.

    Now I’m fine taking birth control because I don’t want kids. Cool with me. But frankly it pisses me off that so often it’s the woman that should make the expensive and intrusive (pill/IUD etc) preventative efforts to avoid pregnancy instead of the men taking some of the risk as well.

    If they don’t want kids and they won’t let her tie her tubes? Well buddy boy… suck it up and get snipped. It’s the least you can do for her giving birth to your two kids. But that’s just coming from around 10 years of pent up irritation over this topic.

    In short.
    Steph: I agree with you.
    Me: I have some issues.
    .-= Alice´s last blog ..I cannot speak =-.

    • Katie
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      Hahahahahahah. No shit Alice.
      I have always been enraged at this, yet one more, injustice. I hate that the burden for preventing pregnancy falls mostly all on the women. The whole issue of preventing pregnancy is seen as a women’s issue, as if guys don’t contribute by pumping little spermies into women. But I think this attitude stems from our society’s tolerance of this gendered structure continuing when children are conceived, especially–but not only–if the mother is single.

      In single parent families, many dads are pretty much let off the hook w/o a second glance. It has become the norm for millions of homes lacking dads who pay child support or contribute their time to the development of their children. It may be frowned upon, but nothing is done to change it. And usually, most of the blame falls on the “welfare mother” instead of the neglectful father.

      In my opinion, this attitude is prevalent because of the persistent gender roles women and men continue to be expected to enact. Women are supposed to be the responsible ones regarding family and home, even though most women also have outside employment as well.

      Knowing this, why (other than responsible, mature, good guys) would men bother to have to care about contraception? They know they don’t have to.

      Case in point: I am a single mother of a 2 year old. I was on birth control (the pill), but stopped taking it because I was afraid of the side effects. Perhaps, I should have done other things to prevent pregnancy but I didn’t. However, the burden was only on my shoulders. My ex didn’t even ponder having to consider taking birth control, let alone the possible risks associated with them. Thus, I got pregnant. Another interesting twist to my story: my ex didn’t want an abortion and I initially did. He was adamant, said I’d be the worst person in the world, etc. etc. etc. So eventually, I gave in. I say this grudingly because, as a feminist, I’m not proud of giving in. However, my son is the light of my life. So, I am grateful for him, but not for my lack of backbone (though I’ve learned a lot just from that decision). It is beyond ironic that I am the sole provider, nurturer, healer, cuddler, playmate, involved parent, etc. while my ex sits his ass in jail. Hmmmm…isn’t this one of the reasons I didn’t want to have a baby in the first place?

      C’est la vie. I’ve lived and learned. Continue to live and learn. I’m growing as a mother and a feminist.

  7. Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I agree with Isabella and Beth.

    We need to decide as a society when people are old enough to make decisions for themselves, and then let them make decisions for themselves. It’s simply not a doctor’s place to play parent/mentor/therapist when a patient wants to have an elective procedure to prevent having kids. It’s the adult’s decision. If she regrets her decision, it’s her decision to regret. If she wants to try to reverse it later, she can do that. If the reversal doesn’t work, she’ll have to live with it.

    I find it infuriating that leaders in our society find it appropriate to make *personal* decisions for us based on their perception of what we may or may not regret down the line.
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Housekeeping! =-.

  8. Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I suppose the choice should be left up to her since she is technically an adult BUT I completely agree with the doctors saying no. I could just see her getting the procedure and then 5–10 years down the line deciding she DOES want another, go to get it reversed, have issues, want to sue the doctors for “allowing” her to make such a horrible descision etc etc.

    And, why is there no mention of her husband stepping up to the plate and getting snipped? As other people have said it is a MUCH simpler procedure and I think it can be reversed much easier than a TL. But I imagine he went all “Oh I will lose my MANLINESS” or some such bullshit.

    Men are pussies…this is why WOMEN have to do all the birth control planning.

    I currently have an IUD. It.IS.FABULOUS. No periods, very little concern. I have 2 kids, not sure if I want more but I wanted a good method of birth control to give me the time to really enjoy my kids without worry of another baby BUT leave myself open to the option of another. I could have done the pill but #2 showed up while I was on the pill so I wanted something else. It’s good for 5 years. I have a little less than 4 to decide. At that point I’m pretty sure my husband will go and get snipped.
    .-= Carrie´s last blog ..22 months: Is there an echo in here? =-.

  9. Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Once you’re an adult, you’re allowed to make all sorts of life-altering decisions. You can join the military and go to Afghanistan. You can try to climb a volcano. You can have way too much cosmetic surgery or full-body tattoos. You can smoke three packs of cigarettes and drink a fifth of gin each day. You can race cars. You can get yourself in terrible debt. If you’re a woman, you can (if you choose) have one pregnancy after another, which can be pretty risky in itself, both for you and the children. Or you can have several abortions.

    It just seems odd to me that, based on that Twitter discussion we had and a bit of searching around the news, doctors routinely refuse to perform a sterilization procedure for many women who have considered it carefully. Yes, doctors should ensure that their patients have thought about it carefully, maybe ask them to consider it and come back in a few months, but a flat refusal seems to me remarkably paternalistic: it says that a woman’s role in life is primarily as a bearer of children, and that doing something to negate that is somehow not her decision to make. And, tellingly, it does not seem nearly as difficult for men to get a vasectomy.

    Yes, there are many other contraceptive options, but if you really don’t want children, you’ll probably want to use more than one of them, perhaps including, say, a tubal ligation and condoms (to prevent disease too). Many women have bad reactions to hormonal birth control, or don’t want to remain on it for years and years.

    We are capable of and allowed to make many kinds of decisions that we later regret. Or that we don’t. I have cancer, and I get to make decisions about my treatment, including refusing it and likely hastening my own death. In the end, while doctors should do their best to help us make those decisions, I don’t think they should be making them for us.
    .-= Derek K. Miller´s last blog ..Morning routine =-.

  10. Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    If she’s of age she should be able to have the procedure.

    No one would raise up a fuss about the permanent nature of a child she might conceive at that age — and let me assure you that HAVING A CHILD is a far more permanent and irreversible decision than tying tubes. With tubes tied you can still parent (through adoption, for example); once a parent, it’s pretty damn hard to stop being a parent.

    If we don’t infantalize her for making the choice to parent, why in the world would we second-guess her decision *not* to be a parent again?
    .-= aagblog´s last blog ..Screencaps of EF Removed Forum Thread =-.

  11. Posted May 20, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    By the way, when I got my cancer diagnosis in 2007, when discussing my upcoming radiation and chemo treatments, one of my doctors said, basically and nervously, “Uh, these are nasty treatments that will damage your sperm. You’ll need to have a vasectomy.”

    I smiled and said I’d already done that seven years earlier (granted, I already had two kids by then). So not having to go through another surgical procedure during my cancer treatment was the opposite of regret. It was a tremendous relief. Sometimes you make these decisions and they seem even better in retrospect.
    .-= Derek K. Miller´s last blog ..Morning routine =-.

  12. Posted May 20, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I wrote my response here:

    http://lifetheuniverseanddonna.ca/20100520/tubal-litigation/

    To sum up? Pretty much exactly what Kim, Derek, etc said. And that’s coming from the perspective of someone who might be changing her mind on the no-kids issue.

  13. Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Here’s the comment that didn’t post from my phone this morning.

    I think you may be on to something on the average 21 year old. However, at 21 I had a high risk pregnancy. I almost lost the baby due to some blood thinners that I shouldn’t have been on. I had 26 ultra sounds while I was pregnant and was in labor for 9 days because Riley was 6 weeks preterm and they wouldn’t help me even though I was 8 cm dilated. They told me at that point in the hospital that I was too young for the tubal.

    6 weeks after Riley was born I found out I had stage 1 cervical cancer. Because I was 21, my only option was a LEEP procedure.

    6 months later, I found out I had stage 1 cervical and ovarian cancer AGAIN. Once again, I was too young for the hysterectomy. WHILE the doctor is telling me that due to my high risk pregnancy and cervical procedures having another child would likely kill me and the child, he tells that I am too young to decide that I don’t want to decide not to have child in the future… AND that likely if I do become pregnant they would be legally forced to suggest a medical need abortion.

    Now I’m probably a little hopped up right now because at 24, I have just found out that I likely have cervical cancer for a THIRD time. EVEN at 24, I’m still “too young” to decide that I want a hysterectomy.

    How does a doctor determine that I should be forced to have a third or fourth surgery and that they can suggest an abortion because of the risks, but refuse to fix the problem while they are in there anyway!

    Now I don’t know the 21 year old in this post from Adam’s House Cat and Steff, you may be on to something with the fact she’s young, probably broke and is thinking short term. Along the same lines as you I never planned to have child. I had one of those childhoods you would never wish on a child. But I do feel that my daughter makes me a stronger person and I wouldn’t give her up for the whole entire world plus a Popsicle. But as you mentioned on Twitter, why is there no method for a younger girl who has dealt with cancer 3 times (I had skin cancer when I was 19) to appeal for even a tubal if the doctors are telling her she medical should not carry another child.

    I hope this makes my Tweet earlier make more sense and I also meant to tweet the link which I will do now.
    .-= Erica Cosminsky´s last blog ..Virtual Teams VS Real Life Teams Part 2 =-.

  14. JustGolda
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to say that doctors are not providing services like say, a drive thru window, where you buy and pay for what you want or need. Doctors have an obligation to uphold a standard of care that includes looking at the long term effects (both mental and physical) of what they do. I dont think you should be ABLE to go and ‘order’ a doctor to perform something medical that YOU think you want. I think that if he/she feels it violates his/her professional ethics, he/she should be able to say no. I understand that people are outraged about this woman’s ‘right to choose’ her own life path. However, there are other methods that she can use to prevent pregnancy if she doesnt want more children that are not invasive surgical/permanent methods. Medical intervention is very much in the hands of doctors who have the RIGHT to deny a patient treatment/procedures that they dont feel is ethical and responsible.

  15. Matt
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Fit To Be Tied”? Really? That’s the best title you could come up with? That’s the sort of lameness I’d expect from a Province copywriter. REALLY??

    (Sorry, seems to be so much agreement around here, I thought I’d try to inject a little extra controversy…)

  16. Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I think that if she wants this elective surgery, she should pay for it. Sign a waiver that commits she’s in sound mind and then pay for the whole thing.

    I’m not sure about subsidies for an optional vasectomy, but I think that should be paid for in full as well. If it’s the right thing to do medically, like in Derek’s case, then it should be part of the free package afforded to us all here.

    I’m not sure I’m comfortable with medical doctors providing family planning advice at all. Doctors account for a significant percentage of cocky and condescending people I’ve met in my life and I’m not sure I trust their opinions on anything outside their respective fields by default. (Some of my close friends are doctors and are good folks, but I’m speaking generally)

    When you read about Erica’s situation here, you have to wonder where the line is between providing the best medical care and enforcing societal norms — the norm in this case is pushing the opportunity to have children.
    .-= Dave Macdonald´s last blog ..Wolfram Alpha and My Great Grandparents =-.

  17. Posted May 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I was that 20-something to mom with 2 babies already. My doc said no tubal ligation for you. Two years later I was divorced. Two yrs after that remarried. Two years after THAT, at age 27, a mom again with my new husband. Thank goodness for that doctor saying no, you’re young still, give it some time.

  18. Meg
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I think the guy should just get a vasectomy–easier, cheaper, almost 100% reversible, and doesn’t cause other bad health effects like getting tubes tied does by messing with a woman’s hormones, etc.

  19. Posted May 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    What’s with the “of age” and “once you’re an adult” arguments? Nobody has claimed that this is a law (have they?). This is a common practice only–at least in the U.S.

    In retrospect, my 23 year old self was a pretty mature, educated individual, but I would never condone tying the tubes of That Girl, even if that’s what I’d wanted. There are simply too many variables in life and you just. never. know.

    So yes, at age 31 and after three children I did have those tubes tied. And to those who don’t know: if a guy wants a vasectomy, his wife has to sign off on it. At least we do here in my state. The Mr. got the big V after I got the big T.L., because we all know that nothing is 100% except our desire to not create more heirs than we already have.

    To summarize: I’m not sure I agree with what I consider the arbitrary minimum age of 35, but certainly a doctor has the right to exercise his judgment and good conscience. It would be nice if we were considered individually on a case-by-case basis, and we probably are to a certain extent. But no, I would not agree to tie the tubes of a 21yo woman who is “full up on tykes”. I’d give her all the non-sterilization birth control that I could, but no, not a tubal. Sorry.

  20. Matt
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    See, I think Tori and Cass are good examples (among others, I’m sure, I didn’t read all the posts in detail) of why this is kind of a pointless “debate” for someone on the outside to be having, at least as far as THIS PARTICULAR woman goes…

    So many generalities are being used, when ultimately, the decision not to do the procedure is being made by HER DOCTOR, someone who presumably knows the woman — the couple — very well; knows their maturity level, knows how ration they are (or aren’t)… maybe even has a better idea of the woman’s personality than she does, and realizes now that she’s more likely to regret the decision down the road. Certainly, this doctor knows her better than anyone who’s simply reading and cluck-clucking at the article.

    Tori’s doctor made the call for her, not the law… and it sounds like Tori is now grateful for her doctor’s foresight. Perhaps one day this woman (or the couple, if they’re still together) will be grateful for their doctor’s wisdom as well.

  21. Posted May 22, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    @Matt Though to be sure, let me tell you that my husband did not have to sign off on my tubal, and the surgeon who eventually handled my last delivery knew nothing of myself or my medical history. Also, let it be known that any hospital with a “St.” in the name is likely prohibited from performing sterilization procedures such as TL. Damned Catholics. (I am one, so I can say that.) (Well, I used to be.) (Don’t judge me, dammit.)

  22. Matt
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    @Cass: Me? Judge you? Sounds like you’ve had enough practice judging yourself. Good ol’ Catholics ;)

  23. Posted May 22, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    @Matt Ha. You know me well. And by “me”, I mean “the generally disaffected female Catholic population”.

  24. Posted May 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Well, when I’m 70 I’ll be one wise old sob. Probably won’t be able to do anything about it, but there you go.

    My solution? If you want your tubes tied then you see a doctor and you say, this is what I want. You’re thoroughly educated and told these are the pros and these are the cons. You still want it done, come back in two weeks and we’ll do it. You’re also told to continue to practice safer sex.

    I’m happy with my goldfish and frankly to not want any Johann Jrs. running around. (Do you know the effort it takes to keep a goldfish alive and swimming)? Anyway, it’s a woman’s decision but I think she should have as much information as possible so she can make a thoroughly informed decision.

  25. Posted June 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    @Cass: Me? Judge you? Sounds like you’ve had enough practice judging yourself. Good ol’ Catholics ;)

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