The 120 Rule of Sterilization
Yesterday, Christine posted on a piece covering highs and lows of women’s health. It includes access to sterilization in the highs, and describes the “120 rule” by which if a woman’s age multiplied by her number of children was less than 120, she couldn’t choose to be voluntarily sterilized. Coincidentally, I’m currently reading “Reproductive Rights in a Global Context,” and reached a passage yesterday that also describes this 120 rule, which apparently originated out of an ACOG recommendation. That text indicates that even if a woman reached the 120 mark, she still needed the approval of three doctors and a psychiatrist to obtain the procedure. (Note: this is no longer the common practice, in case that wasn’t clear)
Christine notes several problems with the article on highs and lows – one I would add is that the bit on access to sterilization and the 120 rule doesn’t specify that this was a problem of white women. The “lows” list does mention the forced sterilization of black women, although it doesn’t come near to illustrating the scope of that problem. The book I mention above provides some history of these abuses, and I’ll get into that in another post when I write more about the book.
What shocked me about the 120 rule – knowing already that (specific groups of) women (whose childbearing was valued) who sought sterilization often had trouble obtaining it – was realizing that not only would I not currently qualify under the old model, but my own mother would fail the test on the basis of ageXchildren. My mom, who was done childbearing 30 years ago after she had me. Seriously.