People Are Sharing How They Fought The Healthcare System To Get Reproductive Care

·11 min read

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about a time they requested reproductive care and received pushback from a doctor.

The response was overwhelming. Here are just 25 of the many stories of the pain, frustration, and grief that people shared.

Note: Stories were submitted both anonymously and from BuzzFeed Community members.

Countless doctors refused adequate reproductive care — and sometimes pedaled blatant misinformation — to patients who didn't want to get pregnant.

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1."I started asking about getting my tubes tied in my mid-20s. I never wanted bio kids, and that won’t change. I’m now 35 and pushing even harder with the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

"I have damn good reasons for not wanting to go through pregnancy and birth. It’s caused over a decade of sexual dysfunction because of my anxiety. I’m a grown ass woman; don’t tell me what I want."


2."A doctor refused to refill my birth control prescription when she found out my boyfriend was 42. She said it was time to start having kids immediately 'before he got too old and grumpy.' That was the last time I ever saw that doctor!

"You don't expect stuff like that in California."


3."I’m a lesbian. I went for my first pap smear, and the nurse tried to tell me I didn’t need a smear because I had never had sex with a man. I’m also a nurse, so I knew this wasn’t true, but they still sent me away and told me ‘if you ever change your mind and have sex with a man, you’ll need to come back and have your smear.’ I don’t know if I was more offended by being refused treatment, or that they actually referred to my sexual orientation as a choice.

"The next day, I had a call telling me to rebook my smear because I did still need to have one."


4."There was a gynecologist at my university clinic who told me that the pull-out method is just fine, no need for condoms or pills. She said no need to put poison in my body, and no boy wants to wear condoms, so there is no point."


5."In 1963, neither my husband nor I wanted anymore children, so I asked my OB-GYN for a contraceptive. He was Catholic and refused. I changed doctors but subsequently got pregnant before I got the contraceptive I asked for. It changed my life, my husband's life, and our family. To this day, I'll never forgive that doctor for using his own religious beliefs to deny me the care I needed."


6."When I had my abortion, I asked the ultrasound tech not to show me the screen. She said, 'You sure?' and then swung the screen around right in front of my face."

—Julianne S.

7."My first gynecologist refused to give me a Paragard IUD because I was unmarried with no children. I finally got my IUD eight years ago and got married (still no kids). Every time I have to change gynecologists, I feel like I'm obligated to disclose my contraception history in fear of having another doctor that doesn't respect my choice of birth control."


8."When I was 40, my doctor wouldn't write me anymore scripts for the pill, so I got a diaphragm. Replacing it this year was a mess as no pharmacy in my new city stocked diaphragms. So my old OB-GYN wrote a script to a pharmacy in my old city, then my dad picked it up and mailed it across state lines.

"I was trying hard to be a responsible adult and prevent a pregnancy I didn't want. It just felt like there were roadblocks in my way. We punish women who have pregnancies and then also prevent them from getting birth control, and it's maddening."


9."I wanted my IUD removed, and the male GYN asked me if I was sure. He then proceeded to tell me why I should keep it in. I had to reassure him I was confident I wanted it taken out. He then smiled and said, 'Is it obvious I think you should keep it in?' Both he and the nurse laughed. I was furious. I wanted to say, 'Fuck you, sir, it’s my goddamn body, take the fucking thing out,' but I remained calm. He finally took it out.

"This happened a year ago, and telling this story again now, I feel just as angry as I did that day. What the actual fuck."


10."I have been trying to get a tubal ligation since I turned 18. I turn 40 next week. I've had an IUD for eight years, and my partner had a vasectomy seven years ago. Strangely, he told the doctor he wanted a vasectomy and got it the next week. Not once was his decision questioned or my consent required for him to proceed.

"The difference in reproductive treatment between us fills me with rage."


Doctors also refused to cooperate with patients who needed birth control or surgical sterilization for medical reasons.

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11."I was put on birth control at age 13 to manage my PCOS. After a few years, my GP suddenly refused to prescribe it anymore because the company she was associated with was Catholic.

"I wound up having to travel about 3-4 hours each way to see a specialist. Eventually, I wound up finding an online service because I couldn't keep driving that far for something I needed to have a more normal life."


12."I have severely painful periods. I asked for a partial hysterectomy, but was denied. Two years later, I developed cancer. Chemo left me sterile. I still had excruciating periods, and I developed a large uterine cyst.

"In my 30s, I again asked for a partial hysterectomy. I was denied due to my age and a doctor who insisted 'maybe you should wait until you get married to consider.' I CAN'T HAVE CHILDREN, and I don’t want children. I’m not just a medical record number, I’m a person."


13."I have endometriosis. Before I was diagnosed at 20, I was told by doctors that I was weak, it’s just cramps, and 'it’s normal.' Three doctors dismissed me outright. Even the doctor who diagnosed me said the only cure was to have a child, but I would have difficulty carrying to term.

"Needless to say, doctors don’t always know best!"

—Athina F.

14."I always had really painful periods, to the point that I would throw up and faint. I was 12. When I talked to a nurse practitioner about birth control, she immediately said, 'No! You don’t need that, you’re not having sex, right?' I confirmed that I didn’t need it for preventing pregnancy, just the symptoms, but she refused to discuss it at all.

"The words I remember vividly are, 'You don’t know what you need!' It’s not just men; it’s the medical system at large."


15."My former gynecologist tried to talk me out of getting my IUD because I was in the perfect place in my life to have children. I explained my husband and I are carriers of cystic fibrosis, and our child would have a 25% chance of suffering from that disease. Also, I’m high risk for postpartum depression and have no desire to be pregnant.

"The doctor said postpartum depression can be treated, and 25% isn’t enough to be worried about. This man would rather I become depressed giving birth to a critically ill baby than understand there’s more than one way to have children."


16."Depo-Provera was the only thing that kept my blood disorder in check, and Planned Parenthood had no problem prescribing this for me. However, the nurse at the CVS close to my house decided I had been on it too long and refused to inject it.

"Eventually, I went to CVS two towns over, and the nurse had no problem. Later I got a Mirena IUD, but it was hell getting Depo in the meantime."


Horrifyingly, many doctors refused to sterilize patients unless their husbands and partners signed off on the procedure.

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17."In 1973, I requested a tubal ligation from my doctor. I was informed that I needed my husband's permission, and my signature witnessed by two other people. I was told that I would probably change my mind at some point and regret the procedure.

"I walked around our apartment complex, knocking on doors, to obtain the two required witnesses. I have never regretted this for a moment."


18."I was 22 and pregnant with my second child. My kidneys struggled with my first pregnancy, and this time I was in serious danger of kidney failure. I begged, cried, and pleaded for a tubal ligation to a hospital board full of old dudes. They agreed if my husband would sign what was basically a permission slip!

"He was offended and appalled at the audacity of even being asked. Of course, he signed so I could get the tubal. It was an awful thing to go through."


19."I had an ectopic pregnancy and was bleeding internally. Went straight to the ER for emergency surgery. I asked for a tubal ligation (I had a 6-year-old and knew I definitely did not want anymore children). The surgeon looked at my boyfriend and asked HIM if he was planning on having children with me.

"My body has never belonged to me. I fear for my daughter not being able to make choices, if needed."


Multiple doctors even used the same farfetched argument against sterilization: "What if your kids die? Won't you want to get pregnant again?"

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20."Recently, I had my last baby, and I asked to have my tubes removed. I’m 31. I was told if my children die in a horrific accident, then I'd have no more children, and what would I do?

"I politely said I think I’ll be grieving too much to care about having anymore children. Finally, after talking to three male doctors, signing paper work, and having my husband come in and just say, 'Give her the damn tubal,' I finally got it."


21."I had two beautiful, healthy children by 24. Asked my female doctor to have my tubes tied and was met with the response: 'You are so young. What if one your children dies?' Cue another pregnancy that I chose to terminate and a third child born while on birth control. Three kids born within three-and-a-half years was a lot at such a young age."


22."I had my second child at 27. It was hard, we were broke, and I really hated being pregnant both times. I told my doctor that I wanted my tubes tied. I got lectured about being so young, what if I got remarried and my new husband wanted children, what if my kids died in a car wreck, etc. I held firm and he relented.

"Best decision I’ve ever made. My kids are 11 and 15, and I will be an empty nester by 45."


Amidst all the horror stories, many people shared their successes — after fighting tooth and nail for the care they received.

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23."I asked my gynecologist to tie my tubes when I was 25. She understood but asked me to consider other options first. Went back three years later, and this time she didn’t deny my request. Mid-30s now and no regrets.

"And as a plus, living in Belgium, our healthcare system paid the larger part of my medical bill. This is how it should be everywhere."


24."I’m a transgender man. In my 20s, I was diagnosed with recurrent, painful ovarian cysts. I repeatedly asked if a hysterectomy was an option. The doctor kept stalling, making me undergo painful procedures, and asking why I didn’t want to be a 'mom.' So I found an awesome doctor elsewhere. By the end of my first appointment with the new doctor, I was scheduled for surgery. It was fully paid for by my insurance.

"I’m grateful every day to have had access to the care I needed and furious that it took so long. My story is not unique."


25."It took me 21 years to find an OB-GYN who didn't instantly dismiss my issues. I saw dozens of doctors in multiple states and bled 24/7 until my current OB-GYN offered up an ablation. Oh, and he's ready to do a full hysterectomy whenever I say the word.

"He was the first doctor to tell me that my bleeding and pain wasn't normal and officially diagnosed me with adenomyosis and endometriosis. I always knew I had both, but I could never get a doctor to listen to me."


Thank you to everyone who submitted and trusted BuzzFeed with your story.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.