On the morning of May 3, Abby S. burst into tears when she found out that the leaked draft opinion signaled that the U.S. Supreme Court was likely to overturn the Roe vs. Wade.
Before getting out of bed, the 23-year-old booked a consultation to begin the sterilization process. Abby, who did not want to use her last name for privacy reasons, said her previous gynecologist turned down her requests, citing her age. But because of a leaked opinion jeopardizing the future of reproductive rights, Abby stood her ground.
“In the end, I told her that this is the option that I need,” said Abby. “That’s the only answer for me.”
It wasn’t until she woke up from the procedure, a bilateral salpingectomy that removed her fallopian tubes, that she felt relieved.
Following the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which abolished the once constitutionally protected right to abortion, young women and others across the country are increasingly seeking sterilization, according to OB/GYNs, who are seeing a surge in Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and Florida.
Dr. Diana N. Contreras, Planned Parenthood’s chief health officer, said the organization has seen a huge spike in traffic since the Supreme Court’s decision on its webpages explaining how a person can get a vasectomy or sterilization.
In interviews, women who plan to remain childless said that they have increased the duration of sterilization. Others said the Supreme Court decision made them take sterilization more seriously due to fears that reproductive rights would be permanently denied.
In San Antonio, Dr. Michelle Muldrow said the number of women coming to Innovative Women’s OB/GYN to request sterilization is unlike anything she’s seen.
“I’ve had more sterilization consultations per patient than I’ve ever had in my entire career,” Muldrow said on Wednesday. If earlier she occasionally examined a couple of patients for sterilization, now she conducts consultations daily.
“Never before have I seen so many women in such a panic or state of anxiety about their bodies and their reproductive rights,” Muldrow said. “They think it’s their only option.”
Dr. Kavita Shah Arora, an OB/GYN in North Carolina and chair of the ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said she has noticed a “dramatic increase” in the number of women seeking sterilization, both in her own practice and in conversations with colleagues. across the country.
According to her, one of her recent patients, who already has children, was previously unsure about permanent contraception.
“Dobbs’ decision prompted her to schedule the operation as she wanted to maintain bodily autonomy and have independence in decision making,” Shah Arora said.
Many women said opting for sterilization was their way of maintaining control at a time when they feared lawmakers would continue to curtail reproductive rights, including contraception and sterilization.
But the procedure is not always easy to provide. It has a long and complicated history in the United States. Historically, women, often from marginalized groups, subjected to forced sterilization without their knowledge. Because of this, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends an ethical approach to patients, as well as taking precautions against “forced or otherwise unfair use.”
Sometimes young women, especially those in their 20s who are unmarried and without children, face opposition from medical professionals who strongly disapprove of the procedure for fear that patients may change their minds in the future. BUT 1999 study found that patients younger than 30 reported higher levels of regret after surgery.
OB/GYNs say their job is to make patients feel respected while ensuring they make informed choices and understand the risks and benefits, Muldrow said.
“If someone thought about it long enough and decided to do it, we have to respect it,” said Muldrow, who can be found on a circulating list of medical professionals willing to perform tubal ligation on younger patients, regardless of their marital status. . She had patients in their 20s who wept with relief when she approved their requests.
It used to be that the more common method of sterilization was tubal ligation, a procedure in which the fallopian tubes are blocked, burned, cut, or tied off. While doctors still perform this procedure, the current standard calls for a bilateral salpingectomy, in which the fallopian tubes are completely removed.
Dr. Melody Zamora, an OB/GYN in San Antonio, said the dynamics of conversations between her patients have shifted in recent weeks. Texas has long had abortion restrictions in place, but the ban makes patients “think extreme.”
“Now that the option [of abortion] been completely removed, women feel more responsibility or a sense that they have to do something that will be in the category of “100% success” in order to never end up in a situation where they say: “Where do I go? now?” Zamora said.
Brandi Shepard, a 26-year-old Ohio resident, said she had no choice but to be sterilized after Dobbs’ decision. When she was 21, she said, her doctor turned down her request to be sterilized and said they would return to the subject when she was older.
Five years later, Shepard’s feelings have not changed. The day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, which she thought would never happen, she asked her insurance company if they would cover sterilization. This happened and she scheduled a consultation the same day.
She was approved for a bilateral salpingectomy. Although children were never in her plans, Shepard said she felt frustrated that she had to scramble to get the procedure earlier than she expected.
“Due to Rowe’s rollover, I had to undergo major surgery and take on the complications and risks involved so that I wouldn’t have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy,” she said. In Ohio, legislators have approved a heartbeat law that bans abortions after six weeks. Already, State legislators draft bill it could effectively ban almost all abortions and some methods of birth control.
Access to abortion means Shepard can live without children, she said. But lawmakers seem determined to deprive her of the choice.
“I’m angry. It’s crazy that I had to do this to maintain bodily autonomy,” she said.
Hannah Morgan, 35, from Missouri, said she hadn’t considered sterilization seriously until Dobbs’ decision. She has been taking contraceptives for 20 years, having tried almost everything – intrauterine devices, hormonal pills. But no one has offered a permanent solution. Because Missouri was one of the first states to ban abortion, she said, it was like “now or never.”
“Abortion is not an option that most people would like to consider, but it is always used as a last resort,” Morgan said.
Now she added: “I can no longer rely on anything. I just need something permanent so I don’t have to add it to my to-do list anymore.
“What’s happening is terrible,” said Morgan, who lives in the Kansas City metro area. “All the rights fought for… and it’s like ‘No, you can’t have that anymore.'”
In Orlando, Florida, Dr. Matthew Wollenschlager said that after Dobbs’ decision was leaked, he consulted from one or two patients a week about sterilizations to about a dozen.
His typical patients were women from all over Florida. Now the practice has spread to Georgia residents, Canadians and transgender men seeking hysterectomy. Wollenschlager said he had to request hospital privileges at a second location to accommodate his patients.
Florida legislators have banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Wollenschlager said, but many patients have expressed fear that state legislators will move quickly to impose a complete ban.
“People feel like they are racing with time. This is the prevailing opinion,” he said.
Ciara Walter, 33, said her decision to undergo sterilization was made after Dobbs’ decision was made public. The Pittsburgh resident said she knew she didn’t want to have children, but didn’t know which path Pennsylvania lawmakers would take when it came to reproductive rights.
“I almost feel like they’re going to start with this, and then what?” Walter said. She rushed to schedule a bilateral salpingectomy after the leak and underwent surgery on June 29th.
Katherine K., a 27-year-old Minnesota resident, said while abortion remains available in the state, she worries that a surge of anti-transgender bills and Supreme Court signals to abolish same-sex marriage and limit access to contraceptives are signs of tough times ahead.
Katherine, who didn’t want her last name released for privacy reasons, said she signed up for a consultation to start the process.
“I thought now is the best time ever,” Katherine said. “I am very afraid of how things will continue because I feel like this is just the beginning.”