A fairly obvious question that I haven't addressed during this series is whether women have the right to be sterile. It seems like sort of an obvious one (if not with just one obvious answer) until you consider how we frame other discussions about women's health.
Do you think women know that non-invasive procedures like Essure are an option? Do you think childfree women have the same trouble securing any form of permanent birth control, no matter which type they want? Have you encountered resistance from medical professionals about sterilization options?
After I got my tubes tied last year, I got a lot of questions from friends (and strangers) about what a tubal ligation actually means. It's not a common procedure for a young (under 30), relatively healthy childfree woman to have, and most of my friends (parents and non-parents) rely on other forms of birth control, permanent or otherwise. I realize that a lot of Bitch readers know a lot about their bodies and reproductive health, but in the interest of clearing up some misconceptions about tubal ligations specifically (I'll get to other permanent birth control like Essure later this week), here are a few of the questions I've fielded and how I generally answer them.
Does the history of sterilization have links to modern consent forms? How has forced sterilization intersected, if at all, with the fight for women's right to be voluntarily sterilized? Rebecca M. Kluchin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of history at California State University, Sacramento, and author of the book Fit to be Tied: Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in America, 1950-1980, was kind enough to answer some questions via email about the history of forced sterilization, the stigma of voluntary sterilization for childfree people, and how the struggles for and against sterilization have differed.
If we're going to talk about voluntary sterilization—or even the simple act of opting to have few or no children—we've got to get everyone on the same historical page. While I tend to take for granted that people understand the history of forced sterilization in the U.S., as well as countries such as China that mandate single-child families as part of population control, it may not be a given that everyone understands the connections between modern eugenics, race/class/ability privilege, reproductive justice, and the struggle for voluntary sterilization. Much as I know loads of folks use it as a jumping off point, skimming the Wikipedia entries for compulsory sterilization and eugenics in the United States only gets you so far.