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 Sterilisation  Autonomy  Regret  Pronatalism
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-019-09439-y
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References found in this work BETA

Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.
Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics.L. W. Sumner - 1996 - Oxford University Press.
Is More Choice Better Than Less?Gerald Dworkin - 1982 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 7 (1):47-61.

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