Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A woman is sterilized against her will

image Reproductive freedom is often understood as the ability to abort a fetus, however; it really refers to the right of the individual to make reproductive decisions.  To be female, is to live in a world in which our bodies are constantly under review and discipline, with each decision made based on what best serves patriarchal and bourgeoisie interests rather than the individual.

According to the Boston Herald:

A 35-year-old mother of nine is suing a Springfield hospital, three doctors and two nurses, claiming they permanently sterilized her against her will, violating her reproductive rights, according to a lawsuit filed in Superior Court.

Tessa Savicki, who has nine children aged 3 to 21, claims doctors were supposed to implant an intrauterine device, which is a type of reversible birth control, after she delivered a son, Manuel Flores, on Dec. 19, 2006, at Baystate Medical Center.

Instead, she said, a type of permanent sterilization known as a tubal ligation was performed, leaving her mentally distraught and incapable of bearing more children.

This should have been the end of the story however the article went on to mention that she dropped out of school in the ninth grade and had her first child at the age of thirteen.  It also mentioned that the children have several different fathers and that her mother has custody of three of them.  It was further noted that supplemental security income, or SSI, for a disability, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is her source of income.  This information was given specifically to set the groundwork for shaming and justification.

How are any of the above factors relevant to the fact that this woman was sterilized against her will?  It seems that despite the rhetoric of valuing children that is often parroted when women want to abort, mothers who are not gainfully employed are still seen as leeches intent on sucking the life blood out of the economy with their sexual antics.  If we truly believe that all women should have control over their bodies, we would not have a history of forced sterilization.  This incident follows the pattern of so many before it.  It is always the poor women or women of color who have been treated in such a manner.  It is because they lack institutional power to demand that their bodies be valued that they are so easily attacked.

This is one of the grossest personal violations that can occur and yet so many justify it based in economics.  Below you will find commentary from the social network Reddit, regarding this story.

  • Simply put, ALL Adults who apply for aid should be sterilized as a condition of their acceptance. And for those of you who disagree, remember they DO NOT have to accept the aid. I'm sick of people taking advantage of a system that was designed to help intelligent people.
  • No matter how many times I read the article, I can't see how what happened was a bad thing. I wish i could give the doctors involved a medal for bravery.
  • It seems to me that in this case, the tubal ligation was absolutely the right thing to do. To let this leech produce any more welfare-spawn would be irresponsible.
  • The world's over-populated. Somebody stupid enough to have already brought nine resource consuming parasites to life should have been sterilized seven or eight children ago.

The above arguments are common whenever we discuss women that are poor having children.  It’s always about the tax dollars and the drain, yet the rich cause a far greater burden by not paying their fair share of the taxes.  It is far easier to attack women like Tessa because she has no power.  It further evidences how little we value the work of the private sphere, even though without it, the public sphere would be unable to function.  By continuing to demonize and punish this woman, they are only ensuring the children that she raises becomes victims of the same institutional biases that lead to poverty and in some cases prison.

What about the children has become a common social refrain and yet we care nothing really for them.   To call an innocent child a leech or a parasite simply for existing is disgusting and yet this is often the conservative approach to our youth.  They don’t care about family or family values or the fact that this woman has produced so many children would be something to celebrate.  Ultimately, they seek a pathway to control female bodies.  From forced pregnancy to forced sterilization, women are simply a mechanism for them to assert their power and press their warped sense of values.