Women Aren't Baby-Making Machines, Female Sterilisation Is Our Right

16/05/2016 16:29 | Updated 17 May 2016

After four long years of campaigning, Holly Brockwell finally won her battle to be sterilised.

On Friday the 30-year-old underwent an NHS operation that will mean she can no longer become pregnant. As a woman who has known for years that she doesn't want to have children, Holly couldn't be happier.

But instead of leaving her to enjoy her child-free life in peace, many members of the public - and the media - have questioned the decision Holly has made regarding her own health.

What few seem to have figured out is that the debate itself is entirely sexist - after all, 15,000 men undergo vasectomies on the NHS every year and no one bats an eyelid.

In an article written for the Daily Mail, Holly bravely opens up about the battle she has had to endure to get to the point she's at today.

For the last four years she's had to convince multiple doctors that sterilisation is the right decision for her. One doctor even suggested her boyfriend, who is two years younger than her, should consider having a vasectomy, instead.

Yes, the majority of vasectomies can be reversed while in most cases female sterilisation is permanent, but the doctor's solution misses the point.

If Holly doesn't want to have children, then it's Holly who should have control of her own fertility.

In 2016, we still don't trust women to make decisions about their own bodies.

Unfortunately, the comments on Holly's latest article make it clear that her wellbeing is the last thing on many people's minds.

"You have thrown away a gift that a lot of people who can't have children would pray for," one Daily Mail reader writes.

"I don't understand people who don't want children," another says.

It's far from the first time Holly has received criticism for speaking out about sterilisation.

After she wrote a piece on the topic for the BBC's '100 Women 2015' series, trolls online called her "selfish" for denying her parents the chance to have grandchildren and said she was being "insensitive" to couples undergoing fertility treatment.

The abuse got so bad that she decided to temporarily deactivate her Twitter account - and you really can't blame her.

Men do not have to jump through hoops to have a vasectomy and once they have the operation, they do not have to justify their decision to a bunch of strangers on the internet.

The same rules should apply for women, yet as a society we still can't seem to handle the idea that a woman might not want to be a mother, let alone discuss it rationally.

If you're a woman and you don't want to get pregnant, it's almost automatically assumed that you'll go on the pill, no questions asked.

For thousands of women, myself included, that small, baby-preventing tablet is an absolute godsend. But as campaigns like #MyPillStory have shown, this method of contraception isn't for everyone.

Women using the hashtag, which was created by Holly's friend Kate Bevan, have spoken about how the pill caused them to become "depressed", "exhausted" and even "suicidal".

For these women, sterilisation may well be a better option, but because talking about it is such a societal taboo they may not have even considered it.

For me, Genevieve Edwards, director of policy at Marie Stopes UK, sums up the issue of female sterilisation perfectly: "Every woman has the right to decide whether and when to have children, irrespective of age, lifestyle, or circumstance. No one else can make that choice for her."

So instead of hanging Holly Brockwell out to dry for making a decision relating to her own body, I'd like to thank her for showing other women they don't have to conform to sexist ideas about contraception and parenting.

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