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'A big relief': UNC student shares experience of getting tubal ligation

Flannery Fitch, a UNC graduate and non-traditional student, smiles on the steps of Wilson Library on the morning of Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. On the day that Roe v. Wade was overturned, Fitch decided to have her tubes tied and now hopes to spread the message of how Roe v. Wade directly affects students and their reproductive healthcare.

The day that Roe v. Wade was overturned, Flannery Fitch picked up the phone and scheduled an appointment to meet with her doctor. 

Fitch is a 35-year-old graduate student at UNC who has known from a young age that she doesn't want children. However, the overturning of Roe this past June was her last straw. 

She wanted to get a tubal ligation. 

A tubal ligation, which is a procedure colloquially known as "getting your tubes tied," is a type of permanent birth control that consists of the cutting, tying or removing one's fallopian tubes in order to prevent future pregnancy.

Fitch said that having the procedure felt as if she had “reclaimed her bodily autonomy” — a term she said one of her nurses used after the surgery. 

“To me, it doesn't have anything really to do with the concern over the unborn child,” Fitch said. “It's just a way of controlling women's bodies — and particularly controlling women. This is going to predominantly affect people who come from BIPOC or really low economic backgrounds. And that is just part of the system of how we maintain that status quo.”

Though the choice to get the surgery was empowering, Fitch said she also experienced emotions of anger. 

“It's really infuriating that in order to claim our bodily autonomy, we have to have such a violating surgery and have things physically removed from your body,” Fitch said. 

Corinne LaJeunesse, a longtime friend of Fitch, drove her to and from her appointment on the day of the surgery. She said that after knowing her for so long, she thought the procedure was the right thing for Fitch.

“I think it's good that she had this opportunity to go ahead and make that decision for herself, especially in a time where things had just gone to a not-great place to be protected,” LaJeunesse said.

Because a tubal ligation is not always reversible, LaJeunesse advised those who aren't ready or don't want to make such a permanent decision to look into other proactive options. 

“Surgery is a big thing,” she said. “It's not something to be taken lightly. Hopefully, birth control is a little less intense than a surgery. But, if you're going to be sexually active and you don't want to have children, then you should definitely be considering your birth control options.”

Heather Donnelly, a fellow graduate student  and friend of Fitch, advised individuals to fully trust themselves when handling reproductive health decisions.

They said Fitch knew what was best for her body, age and future.

“I feel like some people might read this story and they might ask the questions that most doctors ask of women of, ‘Was she actually prepared for that?’ or ‘Was this the right decision for her?'” Donnelly said. “And it absolutely was – this is exactly what she needed to do for her own health."

The experience of having a tubal ligation is typically one that is viewed through a negative lens due to healthcare costs, availability, procedural mishaps or other factors, Fitch said. Though the permanent results and stigma of the procedure initially delayed her experience, she was happy with her medical care and results. 

She was pleasantly surprised when her doctor met her request with encouragement rather than attempting to persuade her not to receive the surgery. 

“It was nice to go into it with this feeling that everybody around me was excited and supportive of this thing, including other patients who, presumably some of them, were there for the same procedure,” Fitch said. 

Though Fitch understands that a tubal ligation is not for everyone, she echoed Donnelly’s concerns that each individual should listen to their own body.  

However, Fitch said she is glad she no longer has to worry about becoming pregnant. 

"There's now this sense of relief that at least I don't have to worry about that happening to me," she said. "That's a big relief."

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mischaracterized the nature of Fitch's procedure. Fitch underwent a tubal ligation. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.