Sterilization rates among women skyrocketed after overturning of Roe v. Wade, study shows

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Sterilization rates abruptly spiked after the federal right to an abortion was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 2022, a new study has found.

After the US Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion, sterilization rates spiked among women in particular, per a new study (file photo).
After the US Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion, sterilization rates spiked among women in particular, per a new study (file photo).  © Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

The research letter was published in JAMA Health Forum and was the first to evaluate how the landmark decision impacted "permanent contraception" procedures among young adults.

They found the jump was both higher and more sustained for women than for men.

"The major difference in patterns of these two procedures likely reflects the fact that young women are overwhelmingly responsible for preventing pregnancy and disproportionately experience the health, social, and economic consequences of abortion bans," lead author Jacqueline Ellison of University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health said in a statement.

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Sterilization procedures are far more complex and anywhere from two-to-six times more expensive for women than for men, the statement added. What's more, reversing female sterilization requires complex, invasive surgery, which is not the case for males.

Rate of sterilization among women stays high

Both men and women opted for permanent contraception in higher numbers after the Supreme Court's ruling, but rates have remained high among the latter.
Both men and women opted for permanent contraception in higher numbers after the Supreme Court's ruling, but rates have remained high among the latter.  © REUTERS

The research pulled medical record data from large academic medical centers and affiliated clinics via the TriNetX platform. The study focused on the 18-30 age group, as they are more likely to have abortions and also more likely to regret sterilizations.

The data revealed the rate of sterilizations was already inching up in the years prior to the June 2022 court decision.

But the ruling triggered an immediate spike among both sexes, with the magnitude of that jump more than double for women than for men.

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After the initial shock, the rate of men getting vasectomies returned to the previous historic trend. But the new, higher rate of women getting tubal sterilizations continued to rise more rapidly than before the court decision.

A limitation of the study was that the TriNetX platform does not capture state or health care organization identifiers, the authors said.

"We were therefore unable to assess the potential outcomes of state abortion policy," they wrote, nor could they provide a breakdown of how policies impacted vulnerable groups such as racial minorities, immigrants, and those on a low income.

Cover photo: Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

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