Spousal permission required for sterilization

On the mostly-female board I just came from, I’m seeing story after story about women who couldn’t get a tubal ligation without the written consent of their husbands - in recent years in the U.S., no less - but nobody knows of men who had to get their wives’ permission for a vasectomy, ever.

This is not “have you discussed this with your husband and are you aware that the procedure is intended to be permanent”. It’s that he had to sign a permission slip, as if she were a minor. :eek: :mad:

I have not been snipped so I have no personal anecdotes to share. My mother had her tubes tied when I was in junior high, about 40 years ago, and I’m probably not going to ask her.

Is it, or was it, a state or regional requirement, or is it the doctors’ policy?

No, I am not man-bashing, mmmmkay?

I’ll add that when I was in college ca. 1990, I had a classmate who was a few years older and wanted to have a vasectomy because he had been briefly married to a woman with children, knew what kind of responsibility was involved, and knew he didn’t want it. (He said that the divorce was because of issues between him and her, NOT because of the kids.) He was having trouble finding a doctor who would do it, not because he was single, but because he wanted it performed under general anesthesia or even heavy sedation! :confused: He’d seen one done and didn’t want to lie there knowing exactly what was being done to him. Don’t know if he ever got it done.

Well from whatI can see a married women does not per current US statutory and caselaw need her husband’s premission.

OTH, it seems that a provider might be within its rights to see if such consent had been given or at least is in the knowledge of the woman’s partner. I can see why they would do that; as an abundance of caution against lawsuits, suits which are unlikely to succeed, but which might drag on for years and be costly; so a written form would simply cut that out "he knew and consent Your Honor, move for summary dismissal.

As for backlash, I am guessing they think that 99% of the time the husband would know and support the decision so they can deal with the 1% of cases where its an issue.

This is rather timely, because I had my wings clipped 48 hours ago. The doctor asked if I had kids and said that although reversal may be possible to consider it permanent. Certainly no spousal permission required.

He did remind my more than once that I may not be sterile for up to three months and to use another contraceptive method until then.

According to my parents, it was a state requirement 50 years ago in Missouri. I’d ask them for more details but they are now both deceased. That was also pre-Roe v. Wade and a time when only married women could get birth control, among other things that leave the young’un’s gobsmacked these days.

As of 1974, three states still required written consent from the spouse for voluntary sterilization. Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Spouse's consent to sterilization - PubMed

Today, I believe it is facility and/or provider policy.

The urologist who did my vasectomy 12 years ago asked for my wife’s consent. He also asked us to write a short essay about why we no longer wanted children. Neither of these things was required by law, but he’s not required to perform elective procedures if he doesn’t feel like it so he has the right to ask for these things. If I didn’t like it I was free to find another urologist. He explained that he has had too many men come back and ask for reversals so he is selective.

Our essay was essentially “We have two children. We are happy with the size of our family. Even if one or both children died we wouldn’t want more kids. We’re not even sure we want the ones we have.” I think he found that convincing.

This book available on Google Books and published in 2006, indicates that at that time there were some still hospital policies requiring spousal consent, but that they were not enforceable except in private hospitals, and that state laws requiring spousal consent had been found unconstitutional by then. Citations provided. Problems in Health Care Law - Robert Miller - Google Books

When I went to get a vasectomy 4 years ago I had a really hard time finding a doctor that would do it. I am a divorced father of two and was 39 at the time. I knew I didn’t want any more kids, and knew even if I met someone who did want kids I didn’t want to be in my 60s with a kid in college.

The first doctor said he didn’t want to do it because I’d meet someone and want more kids. He wanted to put me under because I flinched when he grabbed me by the balls. I knew it was normally a local for the procedure and I didn’t want to be put under for it.

The second doctor was going to do it, but he also said I needed to be put under, by someone not in my insurance coverage so it would have cost me more. He also gave me crap about being so young and wanting more kids. He ended up canceling on me.

The other two doctors just gave me the run around, not really sure why. I ended up going back to the first doctor, refusing to be put under, and finally got it done. I think one of the doctors wanted proof that I was divorced as well.

So yes, it can be a pain for a guy to get sterilized as well. Not as hard as a woman, but you’d think doctors would be willing to say ok, especially if one already has kids and is older.

Another data point: I don’t recall anyone asking me why I wanted to do it. (I was around 40 and had two kids). I am certain I didn’t need my wife’s permission.

Mine was 12 years ago and they had my wife sign a statement saying she was aware I was doing it. It didn’t say anything about permission.

I got snipped a few years ago. I’m pretty sure they made a point of knowing that my wife was aware. I also got interrogated about my choice and reasons on no fewer than three occasions. At each point they seemed satisfied when I stated we have two kids already. I’m sure the discussions would have lasted longer otherwise.

It was about twenty four years ago, and I can’t recall if it was a permission slip or just a form saying that we had discussed it, but there was some kind of paperwork to be filled out by both of us. Don’t know if it was the doctor requiring it. He did make a point of saying that it should be considered irreversible, a couple of times. The only thing I remember saying about my reasons was “two is enough”.

The doctor also mentioned some study or other that seemed to find a correlation between vasectomy and prostate cancer, but I thought that was just because people who have enough medical access to get a vasectomy tend to have enough access to get diagnosed.

On a related note, I wish on some level that general anesthesia was involved. There was a good deal of tugging and pulling, and smoke arising from my nether parts when he cauterized the tubes. The smell of burning flesh coming from your balls does not make for happy memories.

Still, it was worth it. My wife and I flipped a coin (literally) and I won.


When I wanted to have my tubes tied (almost 30 years ago) , the form I would have signed giving consent required a witness. I know that my ob/gyn insisted that my husband be the witness, but that wasn’t a legal requirement and it wasn’t consent- he merely would have been witnessing my signature. * Legally , the witness could have been anyone (except perhaps for the doctor and his staff). But I can absolutely understand how someone would think that a husband signing that form constituted consent.

The same form was used for vasectomies with the same requirement for a witness.

*presumably this was an effort to head off baseless lawsuits.

A woman I know underwent tubal ligation when she was 29. I thought that was something a surgeon wouldn’t do. Eventually I asked her about it.

She dislikes children. Apparently she convinced her doctor that if she gave birth she would kill the baby. Her doctor believed her, as did I.

I had a vasectomy a few years ago at the age of 44. No one asked me why I wanted it or made me convince them, though I did fill out a form that stated I was married and currently had 3 children. Didn’t require any proof of spousal consent or notification either. The urologist did explain that I should consider it irreversible, and I had to sign a statement that I understood that.

I can remember asking my doctor about tubal ligation the first time when I was in my mid twenties. She basically said “we don’t generally do that on a woman your age”:rolleyes: as if I couldn’t possibly have known my own mind regarding having children. I didn’t push the issue as I wouldn’t have been able to afford it anyway but as the years went by I asked different doctors who all gave pretty much the same response. I have never been married so don’t know if that would have played into it. The whole thing really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Before my vasectomy 18 years ago or so, the Urologist required that my wife appear in person and counseled/questioned both of us (together) in his office before he would schedule the surgery. Apparently he had experiences with spouses coming back later and claiming they didn’t know or didn’t fully understand the consequences and he didn’t want to deal with that anymore.

It seems to me the better plan would be to reversibly sterilize everyone prior to puberty and require this type of counseling before the procedure was reversed…

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I’m just wondering…does the office ever actually check up on the statements of whether you’ve had children or not? For women, lying about that and not being found out on the operating table would be more difficult (would the doctor stop at that point though?), but men have no body changes after birth. Can a man walk in without any children, but blithely say to the doctor’s face, “Oh yeah I have two at home and can’t deal with any more” and be allowed a freer pass through the rigamarole?

Just had the big snip in 2014. During my consultation, the urologist asked me a couple different ways about wanting more kids (we have one, and we had decided on “one and done” a decade before we even started trying). He did ask me point-blank if my wife knew I was consulting him for a vasectomy; when I told him she was the one who made the appointment, I think he was convinced. No permission slip, no statement, nothing of that nature.

I wish mine had been done under general.