The first time I tried to get sterilised, I was 21. After numerous contraceptives took their toll on my mental and physical health, and knowing I don’t want children, it was the only option left for me.
This is the case for thousands of people with wombs across the country, with tubal ligation procedures happening every day. However, the journey to accessing these minor operations is an uphill battle for many, with most under the age of 30 finding themselves refused by doctors.
I was one of them.
“We hate authority because we aspire to be human beings and not machines directed by the will of ‘another,’ be this authority, religion, or any other name.”
My path to sterilisation is littered with medical professionals, most of who were men, giving me a range of excuses for why they will not operate on me. Firstly, I was too young. Not too young to work and pay bills and mother a child, but too young to decide I didn’t want to. Secondly, I might regret it. They felt such empathy for me they decided I didn’t deserve bodily autonomy.
Thirdly and most shockingly, I was told I might meet a man one day who wants children. I was 26 when I was given that excuse by a gynaecologist, and after a five year battle I understood that what was holding me back wasn’t me, but sexism from professionals who were meant to be helping me.
Doctors were putting the wants of a man who doesn’t exist before the wants of a woman who does. The medical misogyny I felt in that moment set a fire under me and I was more determined than ever to go for the procedure.
I finally got consent for the procedure this year, now I’m 30, but I know that I’m not alone in my experiences. Some people have experienced being asked if they’re ‘sure they want to go through with it’ whilst in the hospital on the day of the surgery, and others have had their mental health questioned for wanting it.
Unfortunately, medical misogyny is just another part of a patriarchal capitalist structure we have to endure. There are no laws prohibiting people from getting sterilised, but the choice is up to the individual doctor, which removes our autonomy and forces us to continue with damaging contraceptive alternatives. It is getting easier, but not quickly enough.
If you’re considering sterilisation, I recommend writing a letter outlining clearly your reasons with enough evidence as you can gather to back it up. Having something written down means a doctor can’t misinterpret your words when relaying it back later, and it means you won’t forget anything when you’re talking. Also, make sure you ask they make a record of the outcome of every conversation, so you have a copy in case you think they are behaving negligently.
There are plenty of reasons someone with a womb might want to get sterilised, and each of them should be considered as valid as another. I’m happy I’ve finally won my battle, but I shouldn’t have even had to fight.
This article and image first appeared in the July issue of Liverpool Anarchist.
Pic: Narih Lee