Committee Opinion No. 695: Sterilization of Women

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Abstract

Sterilization is the most common method of contraception among married couples, with nearly twice as many couples choosing female partner sterilization over male sterilization. Although sterilization is among the most straightforward surgical procedures an obstetrician–gynecologist performs, it is enormously complex when considered from a historical, sociological, or ethical perspective. Sterilization practices have embodied a problematic tension, in which some women who desired fertility were sterilized without their knowledge or consent, and other women who wanted sterilization to limit their family size lacked access to it. An ethical approach to the provision of sterilization must, therefore, promote access for women who wish to use sterilization as a method of contraception, but at the same time safeguard against coercive or otherwise unjust uses. This Committee Opinion reviews ethical issues related to the sterilization of women and outlines an approach to providing permanent sterilization within a reproductive justice framework that recognizes that all women have a right to pursue and to prevent pregnancy.

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