204 chapter 9: Family planning
Sterilization of a woman with problems learning or understanding
Many women who have trouble learning or understanding make excellent
mothers and are able to take care of their children. Like all new mothers, they
will need help from their families. But sometimes, families or health workers
do not believe a woman who has problems learning or understanding should
be allowed to become pregnant. They may decide to sterilize her without
explaining what the operation means and without her permission. Even if
they do this because they are concerned about her health and well-being, it is
a violation of her human rights and is the wrong thing to do.
If you are a woman with learning difficulties, you might decide to be
sterilized. The decision is yours to make. Other people can help you decide
by talking with you about these questions:
Can you make good decisions about having sex? Sometimes a
woman has trouble understanding when a man is just using her for sex
and when he cares about her. Sterilization will only stop pregnancy. It will
not prevent you from suffering the emotional and physical harm of sexual
abuse. Living with sexual abuse is not a good reason to be sterilized. For
information on what you can do about sexual abuse, see Chapter 14.
Can you make good decisions about using family planning?
Sometimes a woman has trouble remembering where she is in her
menstrual cycle (see page 75), or to take her birth control pills, or to use
her diaphragm. If you are sterilized, you will not have to worry about any of
that. But if you want to have a child later, another method such as implants,
injections, or an IUD might be a better choice.
Will you be able to stay healthy during pregnancy? Sometimes
when a woman is pregnant she forgets that everything she eats or drinks
also affects her developing baby. Eating good food, not smoking, and
avoiding alcohol and other drugs are important to prevent many problems,
including some birth defects.
Will you be able to take care of a baby or a child? Sometimes it is
difficult to remember that being a mother takes a lot of attention, patience,
and work, even when you are tired, sick, or have other things to do.
Will you be able to take good decisions about safe sex? Sterilization
will not prevent you from getting HIV or other sexually transmitted
infections. Even if you get sterilized, you will still need to practice safe sex.
These are difficult questions for anyone to answer, and you may need a
lot of discussion to answer them. Because sterilization is such an important
step, it is worth making sure you understand what the operation means.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007