Are Men Legally Required to Ask Their Spouse’s Permission for a Vasectomy?

Last week, prominent mommy blogger Katie Allison Granju wrote a truly startling article titled “Husband Want a Vasectomy? He’ll Have to Ask Your Permission.” Granju, a mother of five children, revealed that when she and her husband decided together that he get a vasectomy, she was required to sign before he could snip.

[A]pparently, many doctors in this country really do require men who come to them seeking vasectomies to fess up to marital status, and to then get their wives’ written consent before the physician will perform the procedure? In some cases, doctors require a face to face meeting with a man’s wife—in addition to the signed consent from her—before a vasectomy will be performed.

A story like this should have caused riptides among sexual rights activists (it certainly made my ears ring), but the only place I saw it covered was over at Instapundit, which struck me as odd. A Google search revealed a wide array of personal accounts that backed Granju up, but plenty that dismissed the practice as a rumor. What’s a journalist to believe?

So I checked with some urologists to find out. Here’s Dr. Charles Wilson from the Vasectomy Clinic in Seattle:

In terms of good medical practice, most doctors would be a little concerned—if not alarmed—if their patient didn’t talk to their spouse. I’m on the side of allowing men to make the decision even if they’re not going to tell their spouse but not without a whole lot of counseling and discussion. I want to be sure that if he’s making that decision, he’s thought about all the repercussions. Frankly, some men just don’t get it.

And Dr. Ira D. Sharlip, Chair of American Urological Association’s Vasectomy Guideline Panel:

There’s no legal requirement for spousal consent and no minimum age for vasectomy other than the minimum age of consent. But while it’s not necessary to have spousal consent, it’s a really good idea, and involving the spouse in the decision is encouraged.

Simple, boring, safe. But then where are all of these accounts coming from?

Well, according to Janet Crepps, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, while there’s absolutely no law requiring men to obtain their partner’s consent, it can be imposed on a case-by-case basis at a clinical level.

Doctors can impose requirements in a private setting in order to protect themselves legally. It’s their choice that they want to do that. While it would be pretty difficult for a wife to successfully sue a doctor for doing a vasectomy on her husband, it wouldn’t surprise me if their legal counsel insisted that they would be better off getting that consent. That said, nobody I know is imposing that kind of requirement.

In short, doctors are given license to decide on whom they perform surgery based on medical judgment and experience, but most of them seem to be conducting themselves reasonably and ethically.

But what if the genders had been reversed? What if we took out the words “urologists” and “vasectomy” and replaced them with “gynecologists” and “tubal ligation,” or even “abortion”?

Is there a double standard here, folks? And for those of you with vasectomy experience, care to share? Leave it below.

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About Lu Fong

Lu Fong was a staff writer and blog editor for the Good Men Project in its formative years. As the requisite woman on staff, her hobbies included cleaning, cooking, knitting, fainting, and childbearing. Follow her on Twitter @lufong.

Comments

  1. This is beyond disturbing. Dont you (hopefully if you are married) believe in coming to your spouse with everything? My husband just did this, he told me he was going to do it and that was that i told him I didnt support it and with all my pleading he had a friend drive him. Its horrible, I feel like a knife has stabbed me in the abdomen. Why get married if you can’t go to your spouse and make that decision together? I am a Christian and believe that the ” two become one”, I do believe in marriage forever, but this is horrible. It definitley makes you second guess your marriage. That trust is gone. So for all you who saynits your body, well, it is, but when you are married you are to serve, please and enjoy one another and trust me, no matter how right you feel, it will hurt your marrige. Its not about being right, its about one another…think before you do something this devastating and permanent. (Yes its reversible for alot of $$$ and going through that again but that isnt the same)

    • NeoSubZero says:

      It is his body. He SHOULD talk to you about it, but he shouldn’t have to get your permission just like you wouldn’t have to get his permission for any of your reproductive surgeries, especially an abortion. The thing is, you two did make the decision together, but it came to a disagreement. At the end of the day, my body, my choice, remember?

      This article wasn’t about men not talking about it with their partners like you have taken it. It’s about men not having to get permission from their partners for their only surgical reproductive option just like women don’t have to.

  2. I and my wife decided to do a vasectomy after she almost passed away during delivery of our twins, what disturbed me was simple. I asked my doctor when I was told my wife had to come in and sign off on it. I asked him if she needed one to have her tubes tied. He told me no. I then asked what if she wanted to abort a child? He said it depended on the clinic. I said this is ludicrous so I’m as a pro lifer need to stay out of these women’s uterus but they seem to have my nut sack in there hands. I think it would be logical to require it no matter woman or man. Or keep your politics off my nuts and maybe there would be an argument to keep politics out of your uterus. Porter vs. porter finds it unconstitutional to require male consent for women but they find it okay for men to have to have consent? Utter b.s.

  3. I apologize My wife and I.

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