Double standard of sterilization: Men easily get vasectomies, women get the run-around
Tubal ligations are irreversible and more invasive than vasectomies, but this informal double standard is frustrating for young Canadian women.
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Andy Prosserman will never be a father — and he couldn’t be more delighted.
The 31-year-old Torontonian commemorated his recent vasectomy with a celebratory photo shoot. In one photo, he tenderly cradles a head of kale like a green, leafy infant. In others, he clutches a bottle of scotch, a Nintendo controller, and his Canadian passport — all things he’ll have time to enjoy in the absence of parental responsibilities.
“I’ve known I didn’t want to be a father as far back as I can remember,” says Prosserman. “I’d thought about getting a vasectomy when I was in my early 20s. I chose not to do it at that point because I knew things could change and that it would’ve been irresponsible to do it that young, but I’ve always assumed I’d do it at some point. And here we are.”
Unlike Prosserman, Cam Nursall came to his realization gradually.
“I have zero paternal instinct,” says the 25-year-old, currently in consultation for a vasectomy. “I want to travel, I want to open a small brewery, I want to ride across the continent on my motorcycle, and kids just don’t fit into that.”
“There was no hesitation or anything from (my doctor),” says Prosserman.
The choice about whether or not to have children is among the most important we make. If parenthood is ultimately not for us, there are myriad options available to us, including permanent sterilization.
But young people’s choices about their own bodies and futures aren’t always taken seriously — especially the choices of young women.
Samantha Bleiziffer, 27, is certain she does not want to be a mother and would get a tubal ligation if she could.
“I can’t even seem to find a doctor who will sit down and discuss the options with me, like an adult with autonomy over what happens to her body,” says Bleiziffer. “I first tried talking to my family doctor about it when I was 25, because I wanted information on the process and the risks. I was very quickly denied the conversation. My next attempt was at 26, where the doctor at a private women’s health clinic denied me the same information and conversation.”
Compare this with Prosserman’s experience — his vasectomy took place two months after putting in an initial request with his GP.
Tubal ligations are irreversible and more invasive than vasectomies, but this informal double standard is frustrating for young Canadian women certain of their decision.
The current summary guidelines from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) states: “Before providing permanent contraception, women should be counselled on the risks of the procedure, the risk of regret, and alternative contraceptive methods, including long-acting reversible contraceptives and male vasectomy. Informed consent must be obtained.”
Despite this, several women I’ve spoken to were stonewalled by health-care providers when requesting information on tubal ligations. Physicians seem especially reluctant to offer it to women in their 20s, like Bleiziffer.
According to Christine Butt, communications and public education representative for the SOGC, there is a technical update for permanent birth control underway, but it is not yet finalized or ready to be made public.
Having children remains the default setting and status quo. Young people who are open or vocal about not wanting them sometimes face criticism and even anger from family, peers and strangers.
One of the more common criticisms they face is that choosing not to have children makes them selfish.
“Having children can be beautiful, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody,” says Prosserman. “The only thing that’s selfish is forcing your own ideals onto others.”
“I don’t think it’s selfish to know what I want from my life, and if not being a mother is a part of that plan, it truly doesn’t concern anybody but me and my partner,” Bleiziffer says. “I don’t critique anybody’s choice to procreate and have kids. All I want is the same respect for my choice.”
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