Res Publica 26 (2):237-255 (2020)

Paddy McQueen
Swansea University
Many women identify sterilisation as their preferred form of contraception. However, their requests to be sterilised are frequently denied by doctors. Given a commitment to ensuring women’s reproductive autonomy, can these denials be justified? To answer this question, I assess the most commonly reported reasons for a denied sterilisation request: that the woman is too young, that she is child-free, that she will later regret her decision, and that it will lower her well-being. I argue that these worries are misplaced and hence insufficient reasons for denying a request. I also argue that even if concern for patient welfare provides doctors with a valid reason to withhold sterilisation, this is overriden by respect for patient autonomy and the importance of enabling women’s reproductive control. Consequently, I suggest that adequately informed, decision-competent women should have their requests for sterilisation agreed to, even if they are young and/or child-free. In addition, I examine the impact of pronatalism on how women’s requests are understood and responded to by doctors. I show that the equation of women with motherhood can make it unjustifiably hard for them to access sterilisation, especially if they are child-free. Consequently, part of ensuring women’s access to sterilisation involves challenging pronatalist beliefs and practices.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11158-019-09439-y
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 58,408
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics.Bruce Brower & L. W. Sumner - 1998 - Philosophical Review 107 (2):309.
Is More Choice Better Than Less?Gerald Dworkin - 1982 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 7 (1):47-61.
Voluntary Sterilization for Childfree Women.Cristina Richie - 2013 - Hastings Center Report 43 (6):36-44.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Voluntary Sterilisation Among Canadian Women.Margaret De Wit & Fernando Rajulton - 1991 - Journal of Biosocial Science 23 (3):263-274.
Voluntary Sterilisation and Access to IVF in Québec.Katharine Browne - 2018 - Journal of Medical Ethics 44 (4):262-265.
Autonomy, Age and Sterilisation Requests.Paddy McQueen - 2017 - Journal of Medical Ethics 43 (5):310-313.
Eugenic Sterilisation in Scandinavia.Lene Koch - 2006 - The European Legacy 11 (3):299-309.


Added to PP index

Total views
7 ( #1,012,459 of 2,420,817 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #543,487 of 2,420,817 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes