When a 22-year-old woman claimed that her doctor declined to consider her for a tubal ligation, sometimes known as “having your tubes tied,” after hearing that she doesn’t want children, it prompted controversy on TikTok. Women are now crying out about the sexist double standards they experience as a result of choosing to have no children in the viral video.
In a video that has received more than 1.7 million views, Massachusetts college student Olivia Downs recreated a conversation she claimed to have with her gynecologist.
“Hi, Mrs. Gynecologist! My name is Olivia. I never want children. I’ve had this made up in my mind since I was old enough to think of the concept. Can I please have my tubes tied?” she began in the video.
“No,” she responded as her gynecologist. “It’s permanent.”
“Yeah, I know!” Downs said. “That’s why I asked. I’d like that option.”
The gynecologist replied: “Well, no. You might meet Mr. Right and change your mind.”
Downs assured the gynecologist that she still doesn’t want children, regardless of who she finds as a partner. “No. It’s not my plan. It’s not in my five-year plan, it’s not in my ten-year plan, my fifty-year plan. I don’t want that,” she said.
“Yeah, but you might change your mind, and it’s permanent, so here’s a brochure for an IUD,” the gynecologist said.
Downs then held up a brochure for IUD hormonal contraception, allegedly given to her by her actual gynecologist. “It has the same efficacy rate. We put it in your uterus and you bleed and cramp for three months,” they said.
She simply responded: “No. No thank you.”
For many women, especially those who insist they don’t want children, the video reenactment between Downs and her doctor is an all too frequent scenario.
“Voluntary childlessness” – also known as living a childfree life – has grown in popularity among US adults in recent years. In November, a survey from the Pew Research Center found that 44 percent of adults said it is “not too or not at all likely” that they will have children someday, a seven percent increase from 2018.
Despite the fact that there isn’t just one reason why many Americans have lost interest in having children, other survey participants mentioned financial difficulties or the disturbing “state of the world” as reasons to put off starting a family.
Despite the fact that more adults are choosing to avoid having children, cisgender women still have trouble persuading medical professionals to take sterilization into account.
“People need to understand NOT wanting kids!!!!!” one TikTok user commented.
“THIS! YES!! I NEVER WANTED AND NEVER WILL WANT KIDS!! I’ll be 40 in four years,” said someone else, to which another person replied that they will also be 40 years old and “very happy about the decision” to not have children.
“Mr Right is someone who also doesn’t want kids,” one woman said. “How hard is that to understand?”
“Kids are permanent too like…?” another user commented.
“I’ve always hated the ‘what if you meet a man’ argument because, yes, let’s make life decisions on the chance a man comes into the picture,” one person said, to which Downs responded: “Whoever I end up with I’m going to ensure that they ALSO want to be child-free.”
Tubal ligation was discussed with Olivia Downs’ OB/GYN during their annual checkup because she had always known she didn’t want to have children of her own.
“I know doctors are typically discouraging of this request so I kind of knew she was going to say no but I knew it wouldn’t hurt to ask, plus it’d be good to have it on my record so they could see a history of the request,” she told us.
When her doctor recommended the copper IUD instead, she left the appointment feeling frustrated and disappointed. “She gave me the ‘wait until you meet Mr. Right, you might change your mind, it’s permanent and told me a story of someone she knew who ended up changing their mind in their late 30s after always saying they never wanted kids,” Downs said. “I had a feeling that would be the reaction but my heart still sunk into my stomach hearing those words.”
“It is so frustrating listening to these stories because these women have some serious reasons other than ‘I don’t want kids’ and are still being denied. Although, I think ‘I don’t want kids’ should be a valid enough reason in the first place,” she said.
For her, the issue stems deeper than just wanting to live a childfree lifestyle. “It’s really about the American healthcare system and our society’s attitude towards women making decisions when it comes to their bodies,” she said. “I had a lot of men commenting things like ‘People need to understand that humans are meant to breed and create more humans. People who don’t want kids are wasting that privilege away.’”
“We need to get out of the outdated mindset that a woman’s only purpose is motherhood and not place a woman’s value on that,” she added. “What about women who are unable to conceive? Does it make them any less of a human?”
“I just wish doctors would listen to their patients and instead of giving a no straight off the bat, realize that there is a bit of nuance to each case, and realize that women are not children incapable of making decisions about their bodies!” Downs said.
“If I’m old enough to make the decision to have a child, I’d argue that I’m old enough to make the decision not to,” she added. “This is not an issue within women, it is a systemic issue having to do with our healthcare system and legislature.”