At twenty-one, Tarrah Seymour is pregnant with her second child and says she doesn’t want anymore. But doctors have told her she’s too young to decide for herself.
The married Canadian mom has been denied a tubal ligation by her doctors, who say they won’t even consider it until she’s twenty-five.
So much for “our bodies, ourselves.”
This is not a uniquely Canadian problem, as I’ve heard it from several women here in the states. Both women who have kids and don’t – and that includes women closing in on forty.
When they’ve started talking to their OB/GYN about the possibility of shuttering the baby factory for good, there’s either been the outright refusal (limited to the women who are “too young” in their doctor’s minds) or extensive lecturing on what this could mean for them. Because we ladies apparently can’t figure that out for ourselves.
By contrast, my husband’s decision to have a vasectomy (at thirty) was met with the words “OK, we’ll get you a referral to a urologist,” by our general practitioner and very basic questioning by the specialist: “have kids?” Yes. “You know this is extremely hard to reverse and extremely costly?” Yes. “OK, let’s look at the schedule to see when we can do this.”
Perhaps his experience was unique, but the degree of difference between that encountered by a male in my life versus the women I’ve met makes for a disturbing look at the gendered approach to healthcare. Women may be considered “women” rather than girls once we’ve hit eighteen, but we’re still being treated as though we’re little kids.
Take Tarrah Seymour. She and husband Adam Sylvester have their lives mapped out. They’ve both been through the proper training to become police officers Once she’s had their second child (she’s five months along right now), she plans to go to work while Adam stays home with the kids. When they feel the kids are “old enough for daycare,” Adam will follow her into policework. They have plans to save money for a house, put some aside for college.
And they purposely chose early parenthood – this was no accident. Sounds like they’ve got their heads on straight. So why won’t her doctor trust Seymour’s decision about her own life?
He says he’s seen too many women make the choice for sterilization this young. He doesn’t believe it can be made this way. But he’s not her, is he?
I agree that the finality of sterilization calls for extensive education of the process – be it for a male or a female. Perhaps even calling in a counselor (to assess mental health rather than try to talk a patient out of the procedure) is in order – similar to the evaluation required prior to plastic surgery.
And that’s where it should end. Because this isn’t a doctor’s body. It’s that woman’s. Putting some one-size-fits-all requirement on women does not address the variety of situations that the variety of women will end up in.
Like a wife and mom of two who says “I’m done” at twenty-one. Or the young unmarried mom of two from two different fathers who I know – who made a similar request to her doctor because she knows she can just barely support two kids on her own . . . only to be denied for the same reason (and, yes, she ended up pregnant again, with yet a third absentee father). Or, better still, the woman who has known from day one that she never wanted children . . . who will be childless for the rest of her life, no matter how she has to make that happen, but would like to make it a heck of a lot easier (not to mention save money on condoms or save her body from years of hormone pills).
Could it be a mistake? Maybe. But that’s her mistake to make. And it’s up to her to decide if it really was one.