Women’s autonomy over their own fertility is a recent phenomenon. Birth control and abortion rights were only introduced in the UK as recently as the 1960s, and even today, women in Ireland and Texas, are battling for their right to choose. The first UK abortion clinic was closed in July following pressure from so-called ‘pro-life’ protesters.
Today, a 29-year-old woman has spoken out about her decision to undergo sterilisation so that she doesn’t have to partake in such battles, having decided long ago that she does not want children.
Holly Brockwell, 29, from London, has spoken with BBC 100 Women, about her struggle to get sterilised. Brockwell has revealed the difficulties she has faced in order to be referred for the procedure, having: “been told four separate times that [she] was ‘too young to even consider it’, despite the fact that there’s no minimum age for sterilisation in the UK.”
But after a long process, Brockwell "finally got referred this year."
There remains a stigma around women who don’t want to, or haven’t had, children. Recently, actor Kim Cattrall spoke out about her frustrations at being labelled as 'childless', saying the implication is that she is lacking in something.
“As a woman, there are four little words I can say that invite more condescension than almost any others: ‘I don’t want children,’” says Brockwell.
But Brockwell, whose own mother didn’t want children but was persuaded by her husband, is adamant that motherhood is not for her.
“The fact is,” Brockwell says, “there’s nothing about creating another human that appeals to me.”
Every time she explains this to people, they seem to recoil, or question what she sees as an emotional conviction, attempting to rationalise it.
If she says she can’t see it working with her lifestyle, people respond saying she will “find a way to manage.” If she says she wants to focus on her career, she is told she’s “selfish,” or patronised by friends who say she will change her mind.
Whatever her response, Brockwell says that:
“There’s no acceptable reason to not want a baby, it seems.”
Following her mother’s experience, Brockwell made a decision to “try getting my tubes tied – to take the choice away in case I’m ever tempted to betray my beliefs for love.”
“You may wonder why I don't choose another, less drastic, form of contraception,” she writes, “but the pill has been making me sick for years and the only other option is the coil, which I'm not willing to have because I know two people who've experienced horrendous side-effects.”
But making the decision was only the first step. When Brockwell approached the NHS for the procedure, she was refused four times.
Writing in The Guardian, earlier this year, Brockwell describes how, aged 26, she had decided to end her fertility, but was told by doctors that she was still “so young” and that they couldn’t “in good conscience” refer her for the procedure.
She highlights the contradiction that, at age 29, she is “considered old enough to be the mother of unlimited children, to create as many new people as I want without answering to anyone, and be trusted to look after them appropriately,” and yet, that (at the time) she was not considered old enough “to know that I don’t want that, ever.”
“It feels like a double standard,” writes Brockwell, “We’ll agree that you know your own mind as long as your decisions align with ours.”
Now that Brockwell has been granted permission to undergo the procedure, she won’t be turning back, whatever the traditionalists think.
“I’ve never been one for tradition,” she tells the BBC, “I recently started a tech website written by women – I’m proud to say it’s the only baby I’ll ever have.”
Holly Brockwell will be taking part in a Q&A on the 100 Women Facebook page on Tuesday 24 November at 3pm.