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Sterilization Procedures Have Surged Among Young People Following “Dobbs”

“[T]his research highlight[s] the indirect effects of ‘Dobbs’ on reproductive autonomy,” the lead researcher said.

A chair for gynecological examinations in the violence protection outpatient clinic.

A national study published by JAMA Health Forum found that there was an abrupt surge in permanent sterilization procedures among young adults ages 18 through 30 after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, which reversed the constitutional right to an abortion.

“If options for avoiding pregnancy and/or avoiding carrying pregnancies to term are severely limited, as has happened in 21 states since Dobbs, many patients will choose permanent ways to avoid this risk, rather than relying on less effective or less permanent methods,” Sarah W. Prager, MD, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told Healthline.

Following the Dobbs ruling, researchers observed an abrupt increase of 58 sterilization procedures for women, averaging around 5.31 procedures per month per 100,000 individuals. This marks an almost twofold increase from the prior rate of 2.84 procedures per month for women.

“Findings from this research highlight the indirect effects of Dobbs on the reproductive autonomy of young people,” said lead study author Dr. Jackie Ellison, assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.

While men experienced an overall increase of 27 procedures, there wasn’t a significant rise in monthly procedures.

“Choosing permanent contraception at a young age reflects lack of confidence in avoiding carrying an unintended pregnancy to term, and policy changes like Dobbs restrict options for all pregnancy-capable people, likely increasing a sense of urgency around eliminating possibilities of unwanted pregnancies,” Prager told Healthline.

Despite tubal ligations being up to six times more costly than vasectomies, as well as being more invasive and challenging to reverse, the increase in procedures among female patients was twice as high as that among male patients.

“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,” Ellison said in a news release.

During the first six months of 2023, a different study released by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics revealed that states with abortion restrictions experienced a rise in childbirth rates compared to states where abortion remains legal.

“It’s important that people have access to their preferred methods of contraception and that these preferences aren’t constrained by a climate of reduced support for people’s overall reproductive freedom,” Megan Kavanaugh, principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement shared with Healthline.

In addition to 43 states having restricted abortion after a certain point in pregnancy and 14 states outright banning the procedure, women of reproductive age have also reported increased difficulties and/or delays in accessing their preferred contraception after Dobbs.

“We do have evidence at the population level in select states that people are experiencing increased barriers to accessing their preferred contraceptive methods since Dobbs, so we need to continue to monitor how these access barriers might be impacting people’s ability to actually obtain their preferred methods,” Kavanaugh told Healthline.

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