ZINE: Ask me about my tubal ligation (part 1 of 6)

(posted by Sarah Lawrance)

[This is the first of 6 posts where I share the content of my recent zine, “Ask me about my tubal ligation”, published by EXILE Press in February 2010. To order a copy, feel free to visit exilebooks.orgmicrocosmpublishing.com, or akpress.org (coming soon). Thanks for your interest  :) ]

My name is Sarah. On August 26, 2008, at the age of 25, I had a tubal ligation. The more informal name for this procedure is “getting your tubes tied.” It’s a surgical sexual sterilization procedure, a permanent form of contraception, which means that I will probably never become pregnant—thank goodness for that! I say “probably” because like any other form of contraception it isn’t 100% effective. But the purpose of the surgical procedure is to prevent pregnancy from ever occurring.

I wrote this zine for a lot of reasons. One is to demystify the procedure for other female-born people who don’t ever want to get pregnant. The tubal ligation is often omitted from all but the most critical histories of birth control, even though it is the birth control method of choice among married women. I imagine its omission is partly due to its historical and contemporary unethical use in colonial and eugenics-based medical practices. I suspect its omission is also due to a variety of other factors that I explore herein. Today, doctors rarely offer this procedure as a contraception option for young people, and even if you directly request information about it your doctor is not necessarily going to give it to you. This zine provides some information about my tubal ligation that might help to answer some of your questions.

Another reason I wrote this zine is to challenge a lot of the assumptions about what it means to be a woman and/or a female at this particular historical moment. Besides the usual presumption that people who are born female must be gendered as women, I have also encountered numerous assumptions automatically linking femaleness and womanhood with motherhood.

Yet another reason I wrote this is to document my motivations for seeking sterilization. I am constantly being challenged and questioned about why I would “do such a thing” to myself, and I just got tired of people not understanding. I mean, there’s only so much you can say about biological essentialism and the social construction of gender before people’s eyes glaze over. So, with this zine, I’m trying a new approach!

Still another reason is to address a lot of the flak I’ve received for my decision. Upon sharing my experience, I have faced numerous reactions ranging from congratulations (least common) to outright anger, disbelief, and confusion (most common). People have been condescending, have questioned the integrity of my decision, and were incredulous that any doctor would perform the procedure on “someone so young”. In this zine I challenge some of the criticisms and accusations that have been leveled at me for choosing to not become a biological mother, and I debunk some of the myths that inform these attitudes.

Finally, I also wrote this to inspire and provide fuel for reproductive rights activists. We hear a lot about the importance of access to condoms, birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), other temporary contraception, and abortion care, but for people who do not want to get pregnant ever (rather than “not right now”), I can think of no better option than sterilization. It also happens to be the most difficult option to obtain.

This zine, then, is divided into five sections, each addressing a different theme. The first section is a brief reflection on gender socialization and the degree to which it has shaped my life and the expectations of the people around me. I reflect on my experience growing up as a girl in a gendered world I didn’t really fit into, and on the social pressure to bear children.

Next, I describe some of the hurdles involved with trying to convince my doctor and my gynecologist to grant me the surgery, as well as tips for convincing your doctor(s) if you wish to follow the same route. I also briefly describe the surgery itself, some possible risks, the support I received, as well as the recovery process.

In the third section I discuss some of the expectations around reproduction and the role that women are supposed to play, and I attempt to unpack a lot of the assumptions, critiques, and claims people have made about my decision to be permanently sterilized. I also explore various reasons why having babies is not always a good idea. For anyone out there hoping to convince their own doctor to perform the procedure, this section might be helpful in rebuffing their objections.

In the fourth section I briefly discuss my vision of a better world in which everyone contributes to the well-being of our communities, including the upbringing of new generations. The fifth section, “Our” Tubal Ligation, is written by my partner, Matt, who reflects on what my surgery means for him, for our relationship, for feminism, and for reproduction politics generally.

I hope that, together, we make a pretty compelling case for reproductive autonomy, and for a solidarity-based approach generally.

[click here to read the 2nd post]

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~ by artpoped on July 30, 2010.

One Response to “ZINE: Ask me about my tubal ligation (part 1 of 6)”

  1. Click on the YouTube link for the 1946 Walt Disney 10-minute animated film The Story of Menstruation. It was commissioned by the International Cello-Cotton Company (now Kimberly-Clark) and was shown to approximately 105 million American students in health education classes.

    This film confirms the anatomical accuracy of Sarah’s graphic but that is about it for similarities. The Disney film is a normative tale of the purpose of women’s reproductive organs. The girls and women in the Disney tale are Snow White look-alikes, and you might wonder if only White girls menstruate. Unlike Sarah’s tale about reproductive choice, the subtext of the Disney film points to the sole purpose of marrying and having children. One of the last frames show a white woman in a white wedding dress. There is a veiled reference to sex — voiced over the picture of a couple dancing closely, the voice over advises that women can do “practically everything” while menstruating.

    To put the Disney film into historical perspective, I have to say that during my own coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s, I was not exposed to health or sex education that came even close to the anatomical explanations and graphics of the Disney film. I was also struck that in 1946 that popular culture was exploding of the myths about not exercising, and not taking baths while menstruating. Even now, I was learning anew about women’s bodies. In my teen years, there were lots of other sources with similar advice about charting your period on a calendar to ensure you were regular. I could never be bothered doing this.

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