ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



May 2011



When Should We Trust Her To Make That Call?

Written by , Posted in Feminism

There have been a lot of discussions lately about reproductive rights. Some were hoping that the Republicans would hold out on agreeing to a new budget until there was no more federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Some seem to not understand rape, and so were looking to rewrite laws to define rape as only being forcible (so if you were roofied, too bad!), withholding access to abortion if one couldn’t prove that one had been raped by that definition. The choice people talk about often is abortion, with other services provided by places like Planned Parenthood often getting little to no coverage.

But this article is about a different kind of reproductive choice. It’s about the choice to not have children at all. To essentially guarantee that outcome by choosing sterilization. And it’s about how hard that elective surgery can be to obtain. How doctors are reluctant, especially with women who don’t yet have children, who aren’t married, or who are younger, to perform or even refer people for surgery.

I have no desire to have kids. I do not want to be pregnant. I do not want to reproduce. I do not want children. It’s something I’ve been clear on for many, many years, yet it’s something that some people can’t seem to accept. I remember during the time when I was looking at options for health coverage, my mother kept trying to steer me to ones that had maternity coverage, ‘just in case.’ My, but that is an awkward discussion, explaining that I’m not having children. Seriously not having children.

But back to the article, and the issues in it. There seems to be an expectation that all women not only should want children but will want children, if given enough time. That there’s a one-size-fits-all concept of family, and that concept must involve children, and that no matter what, eventually all people will want them. To the point that some doctors apparently are either so scared that younger women will change their minds and blame them, or just don’t trust the women to know themselves.

However, I have to admit that on first read, I did think about how I would react to a 22-year-old who asked for sterilization. I’d probably be concerned because I know opinions can change. But I don’t necessarily think that is the motivation behind the people who refuse 22-year-olds – or 40-year-olds – this procedure. I think there is a bit of judgment, a bit of paternalism, some fear, and a lot of not understanding how someone could choose a life path that doesn’t match what everyone seems to think we all should follow. We seem fine with 22-year-olds who want to get large artificial bits of man-made material put into their chests. It’s not considered odd for 25-year-olds to have their noses reconstructed, or to have fat sucked out of their stomachs and thighs. Those are pretty serious surgeries, but I don’t see doctors turning women away.

It’s interesting, because part of me understands concern about the decisions people could make, and the regrets they could have about those decisions. But we seem to allow decisions of the same import as long as they fit with what we think is the ‘right’ way to live. Trying to make yourself conventionally pretty by reconstructing your face or body? Have at it! Bucking the expectation that all women will or should want kids? No way. Not until you’re older, by which point society is CERTAIN you will change your mind.

I know there are some other options, but those options seem somewhat silly when one is certain about their choice to not have children. Why should someone take the pill every day, or the patch once a week, or have something artificial inserted into their body because someone else is uncomfortable with the decision the woman has made?

I realize this isn’t the most pressing issue of the day. But it’s interesting to me, from a philosophical perspective, and it was nice to see it discussed somewhere other than in my mind.

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