These days, many of the women who do not want children are opting for female sterilization as their primary form of contraception. The reasoning behind this decision varies from person to person, from climate change to simple disinterest.

Frustratingly, women who favor a child-free lifestyle are frequently shamed and questioned for this decision. I still can’t get my head around why society thinks that a woman’s choice of contraception is a group decision.

Not your body, not your choice. It is really that simple. 

Sterilization is a permanent form of contraception that is highly effective in preventing pregnancy. If you have decided that children aren’t for you, this form of contraceptive makes total sense.

Women in the United States are three times more likely to opt for sterilization than men. Despite this, women routinely battle stigma and opposition when attempting to access sterilization procedures. 

We’re all familiar with the raging debate surrounding abortion and personal choice. “My body, my choice” is a well-understood concept; it just doesn’t apply to everyone, apparently.

The hypocrisy of reproductive debates is blatantly obvious in attitudes towards sterilization. Not only is public opinion strongly against female sterilization, medical practitioners often refuse or attempt to dissuade women from opting for this procedure. Whilst there are specific risks and considerations that practitioners are legally required to disclose during mandatory counseling, many provide opinions that show personal bias. This is both problematic and unethical.

Given that the healthcare practitioner determines if you are fit for the procedure, their perspective is the ultimate decider. Women frequently are advised against the procedure because they are deemed too young or because their practitioners believe they may experience “post-sterilization regret.”  This undermines the ability of women to make their own medical decisions and fails to allow bodily autonomy. 

Women are rarely offered sterilization as a form of contraceptive, even when they expressly wish to remain child-free, forever. The options presented are almost always removable or temporary, such as the pill or IUD. In the decade in which I’ve been sexually active, I’ve not once had a healthcare practitioner even mention sterilization as a form of contraception. 

Women’s sexual health continues to be viewed as some sort of mysterious and taboo topic. This allows for misconceptions and misinformation; women and girls are provided with so little open and honest information about their own bodies and anatomy. 

A vasectomy, the process in which a man is permanently sterilized, is a minor procedure that prevents sperm from reaching the semen. A common misconception is that hysterectomies are the female “equivalent” of vasectomies. 

Female sterilization is not well understood or widely promoted. So, let’s break it down:

Tubal ligation: a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are cut, sealed, or partially removed, better known as “getting your tubes tied.” This prevents the egg from reaching the uterus and being fertilized. You’ll be able to go home that same day, and the recovery time is usually under a week. If successful, it is effective immediately. This is the safest and most common method of female sterilization. 

Hysterectomy: a major surgical procedure in which the entire uterus is removed. In some cases, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix may also need to be removed. Hysterectomies are needed for various reasons, including cancer and uterine prolapse. 

Female sterilization is 99% effective and requires no lifestyle changes. It’s potentially a good option if you experience adverse reactions to hormonal or implanted forms of contraception. 

Despite the high success rate, women under 40 are less likely to be referred for sterilization. It’s advised that this decision should not be made when single or when under stress. Apparently, being unattached renders you incapable of making serious personal decisions. Sexism is alive and well. 

Men who choose sterilization rarely face the same scrutiny. Vasectomies are generally approved and men are less likely to need a partner’s consent. Admittedly, there are some medical grounds for this: vasectomies are usually reversible, and more affordable. They are also generally considered safer, although they can take up to four months to be effective. 

But undeniably, men are assumed to not have an inherent paternal instinct. They just want risk-free sex and no maintenance—atta boy! This is woefully incorrect, so many guys really want to be dads. It’s actually pretty hard to find one who doesn’t!

Despite vasectomies being more socially acceptable and favored by medical practitioners, many men are against the procedure. Patriarchal norms promote the notion that virility and masculinity are mutually exclusive. 

The problem is, this debate too often centers around male versus female sterilization. Why is there even a comparison? Sterilization is a personal choice and one that women, single or not, should be allowed to make alone.

We need to stop telling women what they should do and feel, period.

Women who choose to be childless are tired of having to defend their decision. They don’t want or need your opinion. 

Parenthood is a complicated business. I often think about how bizarre it is that a relatively simple act can result in an entire person. 

I’m still confused about why it is so difficult to ensure that one is not responsible for someone else’s whole existence. 

Biology and bias can be a bitch.

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  • Lilly Quin

    "Lilly Quin is a writer, journalist and community organizer based in South Africa. She is committed to using her writing to promote social justice and engagement, aiming to aid progress and social change. Lilly is an avid believer in the power of critical thinking, charm and wit, hoping to one day have the charisma of Samual L. Jackson when eating a burger."

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