The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Two Words: ‘Surgical Sterilization’

Posted on | August 16, 2011 | 44 Comments

A writer at the parenting blog Babble, pregnant with her fourth child, writes about the prospect of her husband undergoing vasectomy. And as always when that topic — or tubal ligation for women — comes up, I find myself startled by the blithe attitude so many people take toward such a genuinely drastic step.

“Snip! Snip! Hee hee hee hee!”

Last year, writing about the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill, I pointed out a seldom acknowledged fact: “Female Sterilization is the method used by 17.8% of American women 15-44. . . . Oral Contraceptives are second at 17.3%.” 

Think about that: Nearly 1 in 5 American women of childbearing age has undergone surgical sterilization. This ought to be genuinely shocking, the subject of sociological study. What does this incredible statistic say about a society so vehemently hostile to human procreation that it spends many millions of dollars each year to permanently extirpate the reproductive capacity of its women?

Yet the very fact that this practice is so widespread prevents anyone from daring to comment critically about it, for fear of seeming to be “intolerant” or “judgmental” toward the victims of this surgical war against human fertility.

“Snip! Snip! Hee hee hee hee!”

Go on, laugh. I’m sure the guards at Dachau enjoyed a hearty chuckle now and then.


44 Responses to “Two Words: ‘Surgical Sterilization’”

  1. Anonymous
    August 16th, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

    Well, Stacy, I had the procedure after we had 3 kids (my wife a total of 5) and after a long discussion. And counseling by the doctor, whose aim was to look for reasons to say no. At least in my case, it wasn’t blithe.

  2. Anonymous
    August 16th, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

    A little harsh there Stacy. I would like to see the age group of that percentage of women doing tubal ligations.

    My guess is that many of them are in their 40’s and have already done their “procreating” 🙂

    My wife did it after our 3rd child for medical reasons and not just to sterilize.

  3. Anonymous
    August 16th, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

    Snip snip after 4 sons, did my part.  Thought about reversing it, but since my prostate cancer surgery (Da Vinci Robotic Radical Prostatectomy) no sense in it.

  4. Chuck Coffer
    August 16th, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

    We did it during the c- delivery of my 4th kid. We sort of got talked into it. The doctor did it for free, since he was all in there anyway. I regret it.

  5. ck
    August 16th, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

    It’s not all bad. The only good thing the “miserable harridans” movement did was to stop other “miserable wenches” from reproducing  and creating even more unhappy vindictive women. 

  6. dr kill
    August 16th, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

    I find myself startled that you are startled. This is newsworthy how? A 20 min minor surgery that a first year student could perform with a local.  I made the appt when child number four stood and nursed. Went back to work the same afternoon.
    Certainly is more efficient than 50 years of Trojans.
    But maybe you like Trojans.

  7. Bob Belvedere
    August 16th, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

    Stacy, perhaps, you need to take a few days off and get some rest.

  8. Nana
    August 16th, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

    I had twins when I was 29.  With a 22 month old and now fraternal twins I made the decision not to have more children.  I couldn’t take the pill so this seemed to be my best choice.  As the mother of fraternal twins I knew the chances of my having another set of twins were great.  We struggled to provide for our three children but we have never been sorry.  We all need to do what is best for our family.  I am pro-life so I would never have had an abortion but preventing is different than ending.

  9. DaveO
    August 17th, 2011 @ 12:47 am

    You won’t get a rise outta me on this subject.

  10. Marie E
    August 17th, 2011 @ 12:52 am

    When I first read this piece, it had zero comments. I stopped back in to see what others had to say and I guess I’m a bit..surprised. I read this with sadness – sadness for what our culture has become. Perhaps it’s my upbringing, and perhaps it’s because I’m a Catholic,  but I think the statistics you’ve highlighted show something about mental/spiritual states, more than physical states.

    The contraceptive culture, in general, is wreaking havoc on families. I disagree with the theory that God gave us science for family planning. He created us with the physical capacity to create life. I can’t comprehend willfully depriving myself of that capacity.

    I do not judge the choices of others, or the statements made by previous commenters. Just wanted you, Stacy, to know that you’re not alone in your feelings on this subject. And keep up the fantastic writing!

  11. Paul Zummo
    August 17th, 2011 @ 2:36 am

    Well said, Marie.  Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Stacy has ever thought about crossing the Tiber.

  12. Paul Zummo
    August 17th, 2011 @ 2:40 am

    If the doctor (well, it will be a midwife most likely) offers to “snip” me after our fourth (if we’re fortunate enough to get there) I’ll tell him/her to kindly take the scalpel and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

  13. Adjoran
    August 17th, 2011 @ 2:43 am

    You made me do a spit take on that one!

  14. Marie E
    August 17th, 2011 @ 3:21 am

    ha! I’ve always liked that turn of phrase. 🙂

  15. ThePaganTemple
    August 17th, 2011 @ 4:42 am

    I can kind of see comparing abortion to the Holocaust, but sterilization, by choice? Uhhm, no.

  16. radar
    August 17th, 2011 @ 5:10 am

    Dachau?  Really?  Stacy, although I only infrequently agree with you (and hardly ever comment), I generally enjoy your attempts at provoking people.  This one’s bad, though.  The subject matter itself seems hardly worthy of such outrage…..and then you have to name drop a concentration camp.

  17. darleenclick
    August 17th, 2011 @ 5:20 am


    I would like a lot more info on that 1 in 5 stat coupled with the huge age range of 15-44. I would suspect that close on to 99% of female sterilization is after 40 AND after the woman feels she is done with having more children.

    I have 4 daughters (24-32) one stepson (17), 3 grandsons (8 y/o twins, 5 y/o) and 1 grandson in the wings (grand entrance due Halloween).  There just comes a time in woman’s life where we look to grandbabies to love, cherish, cuddle & teach rather than producing more of our own.

  18. AndyN
    August 17th, 2011 @ 5:56 am

    If you click through to his piece on the 50th anniversary of the pill, then follow the link to the source of his statistic, you’ll find that over 50% of women 40-44 go with some form of surgical intervention. It’s been a loooong time since I had to take a statistics class and it’s 1:47 AM here so I’m not about to try to do real math, but I’d have to guess that proportion of that segment of the 15-44 age range drastically skews the data. I’d also be willing to bet that with pregnancy risks – both to the mother and the child – increasing around age 35, another significant chunk of those voluntary sterilizations come from the 35-39 group.

    I’ve only ever been to this blog once or twice before. I’m only here tonight because a blog I read pretty regularly recommended it because of a different post. If idiocy like this is typical here, I can’t imagine I’ll be back all that often.

  19. darleenclick
    August 17th, 2011 @ 6:05 am

    come on, Andy, stick around. It’s an eclectic place and I promise you won’t be bored.

  20. AndyN
    August 17th, 2011 @ 6:13 am

    Maybe, but there are only so many hours in the day. How about if I give you a list of the blogs I like and you can suggest which ones I should skip to free up time so I can read posts comparing middle-age women to Nazis because they’ve decided they’re done procreating? :-p

    Perhaps it won’t look quite so idiotic when I’m not tired and cranky. Good night.

  21. Jamie Timon
    August 17th, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

    Gonna have to disagree with you Marie. True, God says “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

    Unfortunately God said this before Sin ever entered our world. When God said this, Adam and Eve could provide for their kids by walking to any tree (but one) and pull off a few pieces of fruit. Now people have to work hard in order to provide the care that their family deserves.

    “Have as many kids as you can” is not biblical. “Enjoy the intimacies of your spouse, enjoy parenthood, be good providers and caretakers of your kids”  is. Having more kids than you can take care for is unbiblical in my opinion.

    I definitely disagree that the contraceptive culture is wreaking havoc on families. I see it that the contraceptive culture is actually improving families. Having the ability to plan when you have kids just means that you are having kids when you really want them and can provide for them best.

    Stacy – Knowing your family personally, I can attest that you are  definitely in favor of big happy families. I too want to have a large family and have 4 or 5 kids. But after kid number 4 or 5, I see absolutely no reason why having a few snips is wrong on a psychological level…especially when you consider that getting your tubes tied is a major deal (and thus more dangerous for my wife) than for me to be the one to do it. 

    Shifting thoughts here – Keep up the good work Stacy! Keep continuing to do everything you can to make sure our shared favorite gets the presidency!  GO HERMAN CAIN!

  22. Jamie Timon
    August 17th, 2011 @ 12:41 pm


    There’s a reason why this blog is considered a heavyweight in the conservative blogosphere. I’ve been following for a few months and this is the first time I  have outright disagreed with anything Stacy has written. Stick around a little while longer and I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

    Here’s an article that I reposted on my facebook wall a few days ago that you might like to read to get a better idea of the quality writing style that we are often get:

  23. Anonymous
    August 17th, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

    I guess I’ll have to reread the Bible more carefully — I must have missed commandments like “thou shalt enjoy thy spouse without rugrats knocking at thy bedchamber door” and “thou shalt not forsake thy 5-Series for another child”.

    How can the contraceptive culture be improving families, when it’s causing far fewer of them to even exist? Unless you’re suggesting that family life is a privilege, to only be afforded to the “right” kinds of people…

  24. Paul Zummo
    August 17th, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    I’d also add that non-contracepting couples divorce at a miniscule rate.  I’m not suggesting that contracepting couples are doomed to have failed marriages, but it’s difficult to argue that using contraception enhances marriages when the statistics decidedly refute that claim.

  25. Wilsonia
    August 17th, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    My sister in law had it done. She didn’t want more kids and my brother in law pointed out that just becasue she was done didn’t mean that he was. Their marriage is not one that I”d want for myself.

  26. Jamie Timon
    August 17th, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

    “Correlation does not prove causation” – Robert Stacy McCain on some topic a few weeks ago (i’m sure this phrase has been around for a while too).

    Telling me that non-contracepting couples divorce less frequently in no way convinces me that contraceptives are the underlying cause. I’d also like to see your source on that because it might be an interesting read. 

    Marriages fail for a vast multitude of reasons, some of which could be marrying for lust instead of love, forgetting that “through better or worse, to death do us part” really means until one spouse dies, adultury, etc.

    Statistics can be read by 10 different people and 10 different conclusions can be drawn from them. 

  27. Jamie Timon
    August 17th, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    Good grief. And by that I really mean just grief. 

    I am not saying that it is biblical to have 2.3 kids and forsake any more in order to have worldly pleasures, and I don’t think my post came across as such.

    You seem to be of the opinion that people who choose to stop after 2 or 3 are somehow evil for depriving the world.

    One of the underlying themes that I have found everywhere in the Bible is the Freedom of Choice. If kids are your thing, and you can be good parents and provide for them, bring em on! If you have crazies and you can only manage to keep a few in check, and you don’t want any more, stop. God doesn’t force us to love him, and he certainly doesn’t force us to have kids.

    The one thing you did get right from my post is that family is a privilege. Only couples who are aware prepared to take care kids for the next 18+ years should deserve family life. Period. If you can’t commit to that, use contraceptives.

    One more thing just to clear things up so that everyone will know my opinion, ABORTION IS NOT CONTRACEPTIVES, IT IS MURDER.

  28. Anonymous
    August 17th, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

     I would suspect that close on to 99% of female sterilization is after 40 AND after the woman feels she is done with having more children.

    Darleen, I can tell you anecdotally that the obstetric profession appears to have adopted an attitude I call “Two and Tie ‘Em.” That is to say, after her second childbirth, a woman is more or less expected to get a tubal ligation.

    Our second pregnancy was twins (who are now 18), and during one of my wife’s pre-natal exams, the OB suggested that if she wanted a tubal ligation, it was cheaper to get it at the time of the delivery (one hospitalization, which would already be covered by insurance) than to wait to do it later. My wife called me up in tears, feeling as if this doctor had accused her of being an unfit mother.

    I would suspect that, among married women 30-44 with at least two children, the percentage who have undergone surgical sterilization is much higher than 17.8 percent. And while I perfectly well understand why some women might choose this, I also know that this procedure is actively promoted by some obstetricians and further know how peer pressure can function in such matters: Women who have gotten their “tubes tied” (to employ the vernacular) will sometimes become evangelists for the practice, praising the worry-free pleasures of post-sterilization sex and commending the procedure to their friends and relatives. I would be interested to see a study examining the likelihood that any given woman would undergo tubal ligation if one of her sisters has already done so.

    Well, it’s a free country and people can do whatever they want. My point is that there seems to be an effort to trivialize such decisions, to portray a very drastic measure — surgical sterilization — as a routine matter of little consequence.

  29. Anonymous
    August 17th, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    If idiocy like this is typical here, I can’t imagine I’ll be back all that often.

    And if derogatory comments like this are all you have to contribute, I doubt you’ll be missed.

  30. ThePaganTemple
    August 17th, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    Stacy, I for one don’t disagree with what you’re saying here in spirit, but bringing Dachau into it is just a little bit over the top.

  31. Paul Zummo
    August 17th, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

    Telling me that non-contracepting couples divorce less frequently in no way convinces me that contraceptives are the underlying cause.

    I didn’t say it was.  

  32. Anonymous
    August 17th, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

    But after kid number 4 or 5, I see absolutely no reason why having a few snips is wrong on a psychological level . . .

    I appreciate your comments, Jamie, and I will introduce you to readers of the blog as a high school classmate of my eldest daughter.

    What this post was aiming at was our culture’s “blithe attitude” toward surgical sterilization. This is truly a radical and drastic measure, and I find myself annoyed by the jocular “snip snip” attitude toward it, as if what was being discussed was getting your ears pierced or buying a condo time-share.

    The title’s use of the phrase “surgical sterilization” was intended to express the gravity of the matter. And while I grant that it was a cheap rhetorical stunt to finish the post with a reference to Nazi prison guards, I will point out that the Nazis believed themselves to be engaged in a scientifically enlightened effort at population control, so that the unfair analogy was at least relevant.

    As you might know from your reading, Jamie, Ellen G. White was quite concerned about the health of women being impaired by excessive child-bearing. Yet she saw this as resulting from the sexual selfishness of men whose wives were almost constantly pregnant (in an age when abstinence was virtually the only method of effective contraception). What Sister White saw in such situations was a lack of Christian empathy, a failure of husbands to show true goodwill toward their wives. 

    You know our family, Jamie, and so you know that there was a six-year gap between the twins (children #2 and #3) and our fourth, with children #4, #5 and #6 being born at almost exactly two-year intervals. Child #6 (Reagan) was born when my wife was 39. The risks of medical complications, both for mother and child, increase greatly after age 40, and so we retired from the Baby-Making Derby at that point. All six of our children were born healthy, and it seemed we might be tempting fate if we continued further. We had been greatly blessed, and didn’t want to impose on the Lord beyond that.

    Having lots of a kids is a contraceptive in its own right, given the difficulty of finding sufficient marital privacy in a home full of children. And I often joke that the reason I support abstinence education for young people is that, if you don’t get used to doing without sex before marriage . . .

    Husbands always laugh at that joke. Wives, not so much.

  33. Anonymous
    August 17th, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

    Really, you’re going with a straw man? And not a particularly good one at that — is that truly the best you can do?

    If you were to read the New Testament a bit more carefully, you’d find that self-sacrifice, not enjoyment, is the purpose of marriage. Reflecting the sacrifice of Christ in our own lives by putting the needs of our families before our own, and all that not very fun stuff. (It’s not very subtle about it, either; frankly, I don’t know how you missed it.) And as for this “freedom of choice” you’ve invented, really, the only answer I can give that is: LOL!

    Hypothetical scenario: a couple, fulfilling your unique definition of “responsibility”, decides they’re “not ready” for kids and uses contraception…and it fails. What then? Let me guess: it starts with “well, it would be a shame for people I don’t approve of to become parents, and I’m sure God agrees with me, so…”

  34. Paul Zummo
    August 17th, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

    Having lots of a kids is a contraceptive in its own right, given the difficulty of finding sufficient marital privacy in a home full of children
    Ha!  We’ve only got two and yet this seems so true already.  

  35. Jamie Timon
    August 17th, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

    “And as for this “freedom of choice” you’ve invented…”

    Yeah, I certainly came up with this concept.

    “. . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . .” -The Declaration of Independence.
    I see I have awoken a sleeping tiger who believes that “The Law” and “Salvation through Works” are pillars of Christianity and therefore the foundation for your Utopian society that you wish we lived in.

    You must be one of those old dogs who hate the whole “Salvation through Faith” movement that has supplanted your old ideology. God gave marriage in the same way he gave us the Sabbath: to be a blessing to man, not some burden. We are not saved by following the law, we are saved through our choice to accept the gift of eternal life. We follow the law out of choice, not coercion.

    Who the hell honestly believes that self sacrifice is the purpose of marriage? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that self sacrifice is the glue that holds marriage together. I am 100% in favor of self sacrifice for your family. But for you to tell me that reason to get married, or the purpose of marriage is to sacrifice yourself for others – that’s just plain wrong. 

    If you have honestly read through the Bible and you can’t see the theme of God giving humans the right to choose or reject Him, I don’t know what Bible you are reading.

    As to your absurd suggestion about the couple whose contraceptives failed: again you’re wrong. If a couple was using contraceptives and they didn’t work, I would still expect them to put that baby before everything else and provide for it as if they had been planning for it. Your twisting of words and meanings disgusts me. Reply all you want. I will not waste any more words with you.

  36. polypolitical
    August 17th, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

    ..and here we go again.  Lets blame all our problems on the decline of religion.  I have three kids from my decade long marriage.  We had all three while under the influence of “be fruitful and multiply” and “fill your quiver” type pentecostal hypocrites.  I love my children and raise them right, but to say that the solution to our problems is more of THAT type of thinking is foolish.  I wish I had waited until later to have kids, or not had them at all.  Since we couldn’t have sex outside marriage, and sex was meant to produce children for the Lord, we did it…and my wife almost ended up in a mental institution from it.  Sorry folks, I’m not going along with this one…snip snip all the way.

  37. Jamie Timon
    August 17th, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

    Thank you for your clarification, I definitely misunderstood your thoughts. When I first read this entry I thought you were against contraceptives of any form. Whether this is true or not I see that your intention was to show your disgust of pressure that women receive to have their tubes tied, which I am thoroughly in opposition to as well. Our world is pretty screwed up to have social pressures of surgical sterilization once you pass 2.3 kids.

    I certainly don’t feel as though I have a “blithe attitude”  about surgical sterilization. It would definitely be a long and thoroughly thought out discussion between my wife and myself, and would absolutely be me who received any procedure, due to the risks that come with the female procedure.

  38. Anonymous
    August 17th, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    Well done, Jamie — you took your initial winning formula of incomprehension, rhetorical failure, and personal insult, and turned it up to 11. With a healthy dose of shooting the messenger thrown in for good measure. Always the mark of a winning argument.

    Bye now!

  39. Tyrone
    August 17th, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

    I’m from your stereotypical large, poor, rural Catholic family (we were the thankful recipients each year of our parish’s Thanksgiving Dinner in-a-box).  After my dad decided that one more would really bankrupt him, he imposed abstinence and that was that.  My parents now live as roommates, even having separate rooms. Their marriage is not one that I’d want for myself, either.

    It’s written in the Bible to be fruitful and multiply. Pope Benedict said “You cannot have Faith without reason, and you cannot have reason without Faith. ”  /shrug  I guess we’ll all find out what God really thinks when we hit the Afterlife.

  40. darleenclick
    August 18th, 2011 @ 3:02 am


    I guess it depends on the doctors involved. I was 45 with 4 kids and ready to ensure my infertility and had a doctor actively try to discourage me from a tubal.

    I just couldn’t see myself change my mind with the prospect of enjoying grandkids on the horizon.

  41. » Not to get snippy or anything
    August 18th, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    […] Robert Stacy McCain (may his tribe increase, one generation forward) is, as always, appalled, but at… Nearly 1 in 5 American women of childbearing age has undergone surgical sterilization. This ought to be genuinely shocking, the subject of sociological study. What does this incredible statistic say about a society so vehemently hostile to human procreation that it spends many millions of dollars each year to permanently extirpate the reproductive capacity of its women? […]

  42. Danella Hansen
    August 18th, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

    “Be fruitful and multiply” does not mean have babies until your uterus falls out.  It means to have the children you can financially and psychologically support AND THEN STOP.  The prisons, the ghettos, the trailer parks, and the welfare rolls are filled with people whose parents did not know when to stop having children.  Or do you enjoy paying extra in taxes to support these people?

  43. Danella Hansen
    August 18th, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

    “Be fruitful and multiply” does not mean to have children until your uterus falls out.  It means to have the children that you can financially and psychologically PROPERLY raise, and then STOP.

    Having bad fruit is worse than having no fruit.  The prisons, the ghettos, the trailer parks, and the welfare rolls are filled with people whose parents did not know when to stop.  Or do you enjoy paying extra in taxes to support these people and the bureaucrats that enable them?

    Seven billion people on a planet that can’t feed two-thirds of them, and you’re worried about a segment of the population with sufficient personal to stop contributing to the future famine?  When did you turn LIBERAL on us?

  44. Anonymous
    August 21st, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

     Most people I know are serious and responsible about contraception and family planning.  Who exactly is going around snickering “Snip snip hee hee”?  Your comparison to Dachau is highly offensive.