Stories of Sterilization

Check out this great piece originally posted on the ezine, Unscripted-The Childfree Life, by author Muon. As some of you know, I have taken the domain, and would like to resurrect Unscripted in the future. For now, guess where one of the best places to get sterilized is —

Iceland! Here’s Muon’s story…

Looking for Sterilization in Iceland

by Muon

I’m not going to go into the reasons why I decided, in the end, to have a tubal ligation, since most here will know the reasons. I guess I just want to describe my experience and the circumstances.

I am a Canadian currently living in an extremely pro-natalist society, Iceland, where everyone has children at very young ages and it is unthinkable for a man or woman to not have children, much less, not want them. (Those who cannot have children adopt them. Everyone “wants” children here.) Recently, an article in a newspaper reported a European politician suggesting that people consider the impact of having children on the environment, and you wouldn’t believe the outcry on the Icelandic blogs! People read the article as a call requiring a license to have children and referred to the politician a sick fanatic.

I was concerned that I would face opposition in my quest for sterilization in the face of these cultural values, but I was determined. I began with a visit to my gynecologist. To my great amazement, my gynecologist did not smile condescendingly when I stated that I was certain I was never going to have children and I was seeking a permanent solution. I have a good rapport with him and he knows I have tried various forms of birth control like the Pill, injections, and implants. With complete seriousness, he then informed me of a law I was completely unaware existed anywhere in the world.

Apparently, here in Iceland, a law was passed in 1975 that any woman aged 25 or over cannot be denied sterilization. If a doctor expresses concerns about a woman at that age or over seeking sterilization, she can file a formal complaint and the doctor will face serious repurcussions, such as losing his or her license to practice. I was amazed that, a) a society as adoring of children as Iceland would not give me trouble when I voiced to a medical professional that I wanted voluntary sterilization, especially since I had never had children; and, b) this law had existed for decades, making Iceland far ahead of other industrialized nations in reproductive rights.

Not only was I entitled to a tubal ligation without interference, the law stated that I was to be given this operation free of charge. To a Canadian this is no great boon, as our medical system is free due to the taxes we pay for it. In Iceland, which boasts one of the best medical systems in the world, we do pay some amount for treatment, and considering the high cost of living here, the cost is not insignificant. The law makes sterilization free so that people with lower incomes are not at a disadvantage. I should perhaps note, in case someone is wondering, that one does not need to be an Icelandic citizen to take advantage of this law. However, I believe it is available only for permanent residents, in case someone is interested in coming here specifically for the operation.

How incredible! It came as a complete surprise to me that it would be so easy. The only “drawback” of this arrangement was that my gynecologist had to have a talk with me to explain that this operation was considered “not reversible” and that since I had not had children before, he had to ask me three times during our conversation whether I was certain I did not want children. We talked for some time about the pros and cons of parenthood, during which time he asked me whether indeed I was certain I would not regret this decision.

I had the perfect response to his questions. Some people think you need to see a psychologist to ensure you don’t want children if you have never had them and you want to be sterilized, but shouldn’t it be that anyone who decides to have children should see a psychologist to make sure they want children? After all, they are making a lifetime commitment that cannot be reversed. Their lives will change irreversibly. They are expected to be mature enough to take care of another human being until adulthood and raise it to be a productive member of society.

That is a tall order, one which you have to be pretty damn well mentally sound for. However, deciding to forego this great responsibility means leaving things at their status quo. So, why should I be interrogated and not potential parents-to-be? My gynecologist saw the logic of this argument and we had a good conversation about this and even had a good laugh, where he agreed, why should he be asking me the question three times?

In the end, I had the operation in a small clinic not far from my home, performed by my own gynecologist. It was performed on a Friday, took about 20 minutes, and I was back home two hours after I had arrived at the clinic. I spent the weekend watching DVDs with my boyfriend while eating Chinese takeout. The only pain I felt was from the tiny incisions in my bellybutton and lower navel, and used the equivalent of Tylenol to deal with it for the first couple of days.

Although I was not ready to play volleyball again by Monday, as my gynecologist said I would be (I think he did not realize how physical volleyball is) I was ready to play it by the Monday afterward. And I have never regretted my decision, only felt the ultimate freedom of being childfree forever, never having the fear the unwanted pregnancy again. Also in the light of reading others’ stories here on Unscripted and other websites, I realize how lucky I am to be living in a place like Iceland, where reproductive rights are far advanced over that of many other “highly advanced” nations. I hope that someday everyone will be entitled to interference-free sterilization.

Laura here–Interference-free sterilization–what a concept! From the stories I hear, in our county we have a long ways to go on this…do you agree?

2 thoughts on “Stories of Sterilization

  1. Thanks for posting this, I also have never heard of a law like this. This is absolutely how it should be everywhere. Muon makes a great point, why is having children never questioned and not having them is considered an automatic mistake that needs to be treated as something abnormal. Deciding not to have kids has never harmed anyone, choosing parenthood is a gamble and it can’t be undone – yet it is treated like it really isn’t a huge decision and everyone should do it. The childfree have certainly thought this through, it would be better for everyone if prospective parents did to.

  2. I believe that the childfree need to push harder that they are freedom-centric and not anti-child. The whole societal notion of worth being derived from having children not only diminishes women to nothing but breeding stock but negates many core parts of being truly autonomous. Men do not get this concept in general.

    The inherent value of free, informed decision making is more important than anything else in my opinion. I don’t know about “entitled”, but I do think the “interference free” part is mandatory. Unfortunately, women (and children) are nice targets for all sorts of political and religious social crap. Too motherly, not motherly enough, too clothed, not clothed enough, too saintly, too trashy, too many children, too few children – never just fine and able to make decisions on their own. Autonomy for women is directly correlated to reproductive freedom. We need more of it.

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