With only 48 hours before my scheduled C-section, there was one item on my schedule that annoyed me. With two other babies at home, my to-do list overflowed with tasks to be accomplished before my impending hospital stay and our third child’s arrival. But instead of finishing laundry and prepping meals, I had to take a trip to the doctor’s office with my husband.
Three kids—that was all we wanted. Accordingly, he planned for a vasectomy as soon as I got home from the hospital. After my husband’s initial consultation with the doctor, he was told to make one more appointment and bring along his wife and he was given a form for me to sign. It stated I understood the implications of the procedure on my husband’s fertility and on my ability to ever be pregnant again.
Showing up in person seemed a bit excessive. Certainly being 38-weeks pregnant would be a good excuse. I called the doctor’s office to ask if I could just sign it and have my husband bring it back with him. But, to my surprise, they flat refused. If I didn’t show up, they wouldn’t do the surgery.
Reluctantly, I dragged my very pregnant self to the doctor’s office. Like the notary, they asked for my driver’s license to confirm my identity. Though I had already signed the form, they brought me a fresh copy to sign in the doctor’s presence. I scribbled my name while he rattled off the predicted outcomes and risks of the procedure.
At that size and stage, I gladly agreed to never endure pregnancy again. But, two weeks after we brought our third child home, I changed my mind. All I could think about was having another baby. I asked my husband to cancel the appointment. We decided we’d try for one more child and delay his procedure until we were certain our family was complete.
In the age of “my body, my choice,” it’s fascinating that many doctors require spousal permission before performing a vasectomy. I was dumbfounded that I would even have to sign something, yet alone show up in person. At the time, my husband was nearly forty years old. Couldn’t he, legally, make this decision alone?
I’ve read many other stories confirming my own experience. In some cases, men actually couldn’t find a doctor to perform the procedure because an estranged—but not yet officially divorced—spouse would not show up and sign the papers.
Similarly, I’ve seen cases of women being refused tubal ligation, even though they had the legal right to one. Landmark Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton have been interpreted as setting precedent that a woman does not need her spouse’s consent for any procedure related to her “reproductive rights.”
Likewise, spousal permission for vasectomy is not actually a law in the state of Texas where I reside, or in any other state. Instead, the practice of obtaining a wife’s consent before vasectomy has been adopted as a best practice to help protect physicians from any angry, litigious wives who could make the urologist’s life miserable.
My assumption is that many doctors prefer to get spousal consent before tubal ligation for the same reason. If a married woman determines she no longer wants to be able to have children without involving her spouse in the decision, they may be left to contend with an outraged husband.
The mantra “My body, my choice” doesn’t apply because the medical community recognizes that these “body” choices affect others. We are not autonomous beings. Our choices affect others.
So if a spouse’s consent is the best practice before any sterilization procedure, why isn’t it, likewise, a best practice for a doctor to get a spouse’s permission before his wife has an abortion? That decision certainly has an impact on both the father, and the child whose life is being terminated.
The answer is simple: It’s illegal.
The Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to require a spouse’s consent for an abortion. The doctor or abortion clinic cannot legally contact the spouse or disclose any information to the husband of a woman who has an abortion. In some states, this freedom extends to girls under the age of eighteen. Minors are able to get an abortion without even telling their parents, yet alone having their permission.
There’s a glaring logical inconsistency here. The decision to end the life of a child through abortion is more permanent than a vasectomy and likely has a far greater impact on a woman’s emotional well being than a tubal ligation. It makes sense that doctors want to be conservative when it comes to performing sterilization procedures so that a patient—or the patient’s spouse—doesn’t regret the decision. So why then, does our government go to such great lengths to make sure that abortion—a permanent and irreversible procedure—is protected to the point where it cannot be questioned? Especially when evidence shows women may regret their permanent abortion decision.
What started out as “access” to abortion in the 1970s has morphed into a tangled web of state and federal legislation that’s made abortion the most protected medical procedure in the nation.
For example, in the state of California, a sixteen-year-old girl can go to Planned Parenthood and have an abortion without telling her parents. Ironically, this same girl can’t go to the mall and get her ears pierced without a parent being there for the procedure. Across the country, a minor can’t even get contact lenses without a parent signing an informed consent form.
While other common medical regulations try to protect patients from making a decision they’ll regret—through requiring the involvement of a spouse or a parent, abortion laws are designed to make sure no influencer beyond the Planned Parenthood staff will sway the decision. Though highly politicized as symbols of freedom and liberty, abortion laws protect the procedure, not the patients.
Don’t be fooled by the “My Body, My Choice” mantra. That’s for abortion, only.