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.

    • Why would a man need permission? It’s his body. Women have had abortions without even consulting the father. Women have gone off the pill and not told their husband or boyfriend. I see no reason to force a man to obtain his wife’s approval. It is a double standard. You just have to get to know the guy you are marrying. Remember the feminists anthem? MY BODY MY BUSINESS!!!!!

  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.

  4. Thoughts of the cranberry probably bring forth memories of Ocean Spray commercials or circular slices of the jellied variety adorning a Thanksgiving platter, yet cranberries are one of the most healthful and multifarious fruit available

  5. Look at all the women trying to derail this into a discussion about women’s reproductive rights.

    NEWSFLASH girls: You HAVE reproductive rights, men do not, so hush and check your privilege. :)

  6. As an OBGYN, I was amazed to hear from one of my patients that her husband had been told that he needed to get his wife’s signature on the Urologist’s consent for surgery form. It wasn’t a “legal” requirement per se, but just what the group of MDs required before they would do the surgery. So she came to our office for her BTL. And I can assure you, we do NOT require a husband’s signature. Now this was about 15 years ago–no idea if they still require this.

  7. It works both ways, people. It’s up to the discretion of the doctor. My husband is in the military. He cannot get a vasectomy at a military treatment facility without my consent.

    http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/married-woman-need-her-husbands-consent-her-tubes-tied-29832.html

    • Did you read your own link? Do you understand its summary. You may want to re-read it. It is a better counter argument against what you have said than it is an actual argument. As a result, you appear pretty silly.

      • erik the red says:

        well, if you read around the end, it is essentially in the same state of affairs.

        “Others protect doctors and hospitals from being forced to perform the procedure against their judgment. A doctor or hospital determined to obtain spousal consent before performing a tubal ligation might be protected under these laws, but courts have repeatedly found that tubal ligation does not require spousal consent.”

        and while I find it outrageous that men must seek permission (yet another reason for men to avoid marriage), it seems that while it does not require spousal consent, a doctor may be able to require spousal consent

  8. I had to sign a consent for my husband to get a vasectomy. There are some cases where husband had to sign consent when a woman wants tubsl ligation. My mother in law said this was the case for her and my father in law. In some cases, there are even minimum age requirements. It really depends on the doctor.

  9. Let’s look at it from a different perspective, do women need permission of the father to abort their baby? The answer is no. Moreover, with HIPAA laws, a physician wouldn’t even be allowed to speak about a husband’s procedure anyway.

  10. When I went to have my vasectomy I did not bring the consent form on purpose. The Dr’s office called my wife at work. they faxed a consent form to her had her sign it and fax it back before they would do the procedure.

  11. I live in SC. Here, even when a hysterectomy is medically necessary (as an example, after child birth, if a woman is hemoraging) the husband is requried to consent before it can be performed. If he is not avaliable or will not provide consent, a team of doctors can over ride him. Welcome to having your atomomy taken away.

  12. In regards to your last point, it’s extremely difficult for women to get tubal litigation. Most docs won’t do it, or require a certain number of kids, or past a certain age. And many want the husbands consent too before they’ll consider it. It’s far easier for men to get vasectomies than TL for woman. Ask any woman who’s tried and you’ll get stories spanning upwards of two decades still with no doctor willing to perform.

    The abortion analogy is much more spot on, except in states that have past draconian laws on the subject.

    • Noting that TL is an extreme option for a woman who has a plethora of far less invasive and permanent alternatives (medications, implants, etc).

    • erik the red says:

      I wouldn’t say abortions are a good analogy at all. if a man is allowed or not allowed to get a vasectomy, his life isn’t particularly different aside from sex being riskier for him.

      an abortion has much bigger implications. by not allowing it, you are forcing a woman into 9 months of pregnancy, childbirth, potentially ruining her figure and/or career and giving her an unwanted burden for life, and by allowing it, you’re killing a man’s potential child, stealing the mantle of fatherhood away from him.

      somewhat different

      • I disagree Erik,
        It’s about rights to one’ own body. Doctor’s have no right to get in the middle of someone’s marriage or relationship. They should assume that he has talked it over with his partner. Even after the birth, moms can walk over t a church and silently and anonymously give the child away and never let dad know. There is no way a doctor can be sued because a man was not honest with his wife about a procedure. That is none o heir business.

  13. People wake up and Doctors get a clue! If You and your spouse can not discuss and agree on such a decision you have no business being married. If she doesn’t need your consent for her surgery then you don’t need her consent for yours. If a Doctor requires her consent then sue him and set the presidents. Problem solved.

    I was 26 when I had mine done; I was in the military and it was done in a military facility. I have since divorced her and remarried. Do I regret getting it done? No I do not! I have 2 kids from my ex which she has little to no interaction with them. I love my current wife with all my heart and she has no children biologically but she has 2 kids if you get my meaning. We discussed reversal but we felt it was too expensive and the percent chance of it working was too slim. Our children are grown and still call her Mom. If they want a female point of view they call her not their biologic.

    I think a there is a major dysfunction in second marriages when siblings come along. 9 times out of 10 there is preferential treatment to the Biological kids over the step kids. I know firsthand because my mother remarried and had two more from my stepfather. To this day we are not as important as those 2 as far as they are concerned. If you can’t love and treat all your kids the same your better off not having any more!

  14. Kristen says:

    The idea of competent adult needing someone else’s permission to make decisions about their own fertility is insane. Even if it’s not legally mandated, far too many medical professionals *insist* on involving partners in decisions a person should be able to make on their own. The problem is, because it’s a demand made at the provider-level rather than a legal mandate, it’s a lot harder to target efforts to put an end to the practice. The only thing that’s going to get doctors to change their policies is for large numbers of their patients to refuse to be seen by a doctor who doesn’t respect their bodily autonomy. In the meantime, cross your fingers for Vaselgel making it to market.

  15. erik the red says:

    I think the issue here is that consent is needed, implying that a woman can prevent her husband from having a vasectomy. I think it would be fair to require that the wife be informed of the vasectomy (after all, I could see a husband keeping it from his wife and robbing her of the potential to have children). maybe require people to inform their fiancees that they are sterile before marriage?

    • Then, Erik, women need to inform the father before they get abortions. My point is, it is none the doctors business, if the husband and wife have talked about it. That is their marriage. A doctors concern should only be for the health of his patient, not the health of the marriage.

  16. erik the red says:

    another interesting question, do men need their wife’s consent to undergo a sex change?

  17. Sarah Goodwich says:

    It’s amazing how Roe v. Wade allows abortion, which is pretty permanent, but not a procedure that makes them unnecessary. It’s as if we’re still caught up in the “biological duty” myth of the past. .. and double-standards.

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