How Easy is it to Get a Hysterectomy?

Picture of a drawn reproductive system with flowers growing out of it.
A Female Reproductive System. Image taken from: Shuttershock

By Katrina Arellano

When it comes to the bodily autonomy of someone with a female reproductive system, there are certain hoops they have to go through in order to obtain certain medical procedures, such as sterilization. There are various reasons as to why a person would want to undergo the varying kinds such as a hysterectomy or tubal ligation, like not wanting children, being a transgender man, cancer and/or to escape a painful uterine condition. Regardless of why people want to have these procedures, it seems the journey is profoundly long. People under 35 do not typically have a hysterectomy, and while there is no strict minimum age for people to be in order to have the procedure, depending on the insurance and the opinion of medical professionals, people under 35 are not usually accepted. For example, people who utilize Medicaid and seek sterilization for non-medical reasons will not be covered. Since it is federally funded, people who do have serious medical conditions are inclined to wait 30 days between signing the consent form and having the procedure. While private insurance is more willing to help cover the cost of hysterectomies, I talked with a couple of people who said their private insurance will not help cover it despite immense suffering. Even for having private insurance, my dear friend Anai Bell, 23, insurance provider will not help cover the cost of a hysterectomy and despite have undergone alternate procedures, she said. “I’ve been fighting to get one due to my endo and adeno and I can’t until I have at least 3 children.”

Three examples of what parts portraying where a partial, total, and radical hysterectomy take place. Partial is is removal of the uterus, total is the removal of the uterus and some of the vaginal canal and radical is the removal of uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Three of the 5 different types of a hysterectomy. Image taken from: Shuttershock

My old friend Zade Coronado, 27, was rejected by a surgeon who said she was not comfortable performing the surgery because even though he is transgender he could still want children of his own later. Zade switched providers, went through a series of counseling, signed a waiver stating he does not want children, and then was approved for a hysterectomy. He said, “This surgery was one of the most important surgeries… I was at higher risk for ovarian cancer because of the hormone treatments I am on.” He even mentioned how the surgeon and staff of St. Luke’s took very good care of him and were all around professional of the whole situation. Hearing of Zade’s experience as a transman was very interesting because I think it reflects a progressive world of doctors accepting dysphoria. On the other hand, it makes me question the lack of opportunity for young women to go about doing something they also feel is the answer to their discomfort. Of course, it is a good idea to thoroughly think about the risks when it comes to any procedure, for there are always side effects no matter the severity, but I also believe it’s important to respect someone’s choice to do whatever they want with their body. If someone is physically suffering for years and keeps going through the pain of trying to have a child, then why make them go through that because of that small chance they may have a child later? I asked Anai if she thought this reflected an internal bias and she said, “Yes and no. Goes back to really understating the circumstances of having a hysterectomy. Many people think it’s due to the ability to have children, but it goes more in-depth like how it affects your body and your mental well being.” I think the backlash emanates from a patriarchal stand point as well as a lack of understanding the mental and physical pain people go through at the hands of their uterus.

Hysterectomies are considered a last resort for all people considering or seeking one because of how invasive these procedures are, as well as the potential mental or physical side effects that could develop afterwards. Because of the potential physical and mental risks of undergoing sterilization, doctors try to encourage patients to seek other avenues that may not be as invasive, especially if someone is under 35. People who want a hysterectomy or their tubes tied are denied for these risks, but I think it’s deeper than wanting patients to be safe. The main reason people with or without serious medical issues are denied appears to be because of the notion of regret that might come later, for that person may want children in the future. My dear friend Jean Kel, 24, explained how some of her female family members are sterile, but have become pregnant and end up miscarrying and she believes she is the same way. She said, “I miscarried twice in my life, both times at 2 months in. The second time caused me to have my first ever seizure from losing so much blood. It was so traumatizing and hormonally I was a mess.” Jean is not alone in her experience of excruciating mental and physical pain of trying to go through a pregnancy, miscarrying, and then having her doctors still deny her sterilization. The collective of stories make me think of how much weight is put on people to have children of their own. It’s as if people and doctors do not want to accept that people, let alone women, are confident in their decisions to not want to conceive.

Jean Kel smiling behind a yellow sunflower in a bed of green shrub.

“I don’t want to conceive, I’d rather adopt. My periods are painful and heavy, and I don’t understand why I should have to go through this when I’m not trying to be pregnant. They always say, “you’re so young, what if you change your mind?” That’s okay but I don’t think I will. I know I won’t, actually. And I hate that I can’t just request it. I don’t understand why the government and medical industry has say over me and my tubes!”

Jean has not been diagnosed due to her financial situation, but hearing her experience alone is enough for me to believe something is wrong and she knows she wants/needs medical attention.

The National Women’s Health Network believes all other options should be exhausted before someone undergoes a hysterectomy, which is understandable, but how long must we make people suffer because of what could or could not happen? Even for all the backlash people hear and may continue to go through for their choice to undergo a hysterectomy, what ultimately matters is doctors listen to their patients’ concerns, doing the best they can without bias, and that the person undergoing the procedure is happy. Everyone’s relationship to their uterus is different and Allie Niemiec of HuffPost was glad to go through a hysterectomy. She wrote a piece on her mental and physical strain before she made it to the surgery table and she shared some powerful words that may help others who are struggling with what may feel like loss, “I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and I am still just as much of a woman as I was before.”

Ways to Give Around the Holidays

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This is my last article for the Women’s Center since I will soon be graduating, and I hope it does some good. As the holidays roll around, everywhere there are places to give. The Salvation Army will have its buckets out, local churches will collect donations to help people in need, and many giving trees and winter coat donation boxes will be seen around town. What I want to focus this article on are places on the Palouse that need things for women and for the children that they may have. Toys are always appreciated, but what about warm clothes, clean blankets, shoes, razors, deodorant, or tampons? These are not often things people think about, and to people who may be down on their luck, they can make all  the difference.

The first place I explored was Family Promise of the Palouse, which aims to give all families a safe home they can go to. They have an online wish list with this statement: “The following items are utilized daily at FPP’s family day center, along with being distributed amongst the families in a move-out basket upon graduating our program. Having basic and necessary items help our families gain the confidence they need to look for employment, housing, as well as provide stability and a safe a living space crucial to their stay. Family Promise would be most appreciative for any donations or supply drives.”

Their wish list is online here and in addition to clothing and food items, it also includes basic medical supplies and home supplies that people may need. Continue reading “Ways to Give Around the Holidays”

Dress Codes in the Workplace

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This topic isn’t something I’ve thought about much, mostly because dress codes haven’t affected me in my current work setting, and so the issue hasn’t bothered me for a few years now. But my friend, who is studying bio-chemistry on the east coast, recently asked my opinion on something. My friend has large breasts, she works out, and overall is a pretty stellar human being who happens to be gorgeous on top of it all. One day in the lab, it was very warm, as it sometimes is in lab settings, so before putting on her lab coat and getting to work, she took off her long-sleeved shirt to reveal the tank top she was wearing underneath. She thought she was in a professional setting.

She quickly realized that she was not.

Immediately, the men in the room were staring at her. This wasn’t anything new, and given that she doesn’t usually show her figure in such a way, she assumed it would pass as she put her lab coat on and tied up her hair for work. It didn’t pass. Continue reading “Dress Codes in the Workplace”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Real Big Deal

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, otherwise known as RBG, is the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and after the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, retired, she was the only woman on the court for a while. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and, in 1973, she became the ACLU’s general counsel.

The Women’s Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in over 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. All the while, RBG was a wife and mother. Within the first few years of this project, Ginsburg fought six cases of discrimination before the Supreme Court, and won five. She chose to focus not just on problems faced by women, but demonstrated that gender inequality was detrimental for both men and women. She took part in expanding the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to include women. She also argued for a widower with children who, when his wife passed, was unable to collect any benefits to help him support his dependents. She’s part of the reason that jury duty became mandatory for women as citizens of this nation, and why women in Oklahoma could legally drink at the same age as men. Continue reading “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Real Big Deal”

No Choice

By Vicky Diloné

As many know, America has a dark side to its history. What is supposed to be the Land of the Free has at times been a country where freedom of choice is denied.

Imagine this, you’re in the hospital after spending hours in labor and are given strong drugs to reduce the pain. The nurse says you’ll need a C-section, but first you need to sign some papers. She won’t tell you what they’re for, only that if you don’t sign them, your baby will die. Even though you are in pain and can’t even read the English, you sign them and they put you under for the C-section.

Months later you’re with your baby boy and happy to start your new life. Then you get the call, you discover were sterilized. During the C-section the doctors also gave you a tubal ligation and whether you wanted or not, you cannot have more kids. This is the reality for many women, most who are in poverty or are immigrants, around the world, even in the United States. Continue reading “No Choice”

Inspiration by Impact: A Highlight of Three Modern Female Musicians

three female musicians framed alongside one another
Left to Right: Liz Harris, Quay Dash, Kelly Moran

By Remington Jensen

For decades the work of female musicians has been undermined by the work of their male counterparts, yet in the 90s, 00s and now the 10s that will soon move into the 20s the music industry — and music as a whole — is straying away from an ongoing landscape that has been long dominated by men. The transition however could not be possible without forward thinking and passionate musicians, and in this article I have decided to take note of a few of these creative female producers that to me are pioneering this changing battleground of sound!

Continue reading “Inspiration by Impact: A Highlight of Three Modern Female Musicians”

What Now?

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Like many women in the nation, I watched events unfold regarding the Supreme Court, namely Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and subsequent appointment. I watched as a man accused of sexual assault got appointed to the highest court in the land. I watched, as a kindred spirit, as  Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was cast aside. I watched a man turn vile and hateful towards every woman talking to him in that courtroom. I watched and recognized that any notion of the idealized “good ol’ days” where rapist couldn’t even be employed had died.

My parents, now in their late fifties, have talked about the good old days, when “men were men, ladies were ladies, and America was at its peak,” blah blah blah. They want to go back to that, and yet they endorse the administration that puts a man publicly accused of assault on the Supreme Court? When my parents were growing up, had a man been accused of sexual assault in such a public way, in most cases he would have been tried, and he wouldn’t have made it to the Supreme Court, at least not if those good ol’ days were as ideal as I’ve been told, but he’s a white middle aged man and in 2018 that’s a privilege that will bring a “respectable” person back from the edges of ruin.

And you know what? I’m mad about it. I’m mad, I’m scared, and I recently learned that others on the court, Clarence Thomas, for example, had been accused of sexual assault and maintained their jobs as well. It’s infuriating.

Men can be shamed and laughed out of their jobs for having a consensual affair but when they’re potentially a sexual predator, there’s somehow no way that they could have done it. No. I don’t subscribe to that and like many women I have a lot of feelings wrapped up in this for my future and my kids’ future, and frankly I don’t know what to do since the senate gets to make this decision and we the people have no say in it.
I’m going to vote. I’m going to do my part to make a change even if it seems insignificant, but what can we do right now? In a nation where hope is failing, and we have all of these immediate feelings, how do we deal with them and how do we cope? The university offers counseling to students, but how do we let this out on our own time? I know women who are having events to break stuff, so they can smash piñatas today and the patriarchy tomorrow. There are groups of sexual assault survivors on Facebook, on campus, and the U of I Women’s Center also has many great resources.

On my own time, I’ve been writing. I’ve been reading up on candidates. I’ve been cleaning, cooking, talking to other women to try and build them up during this time. I’ve been discussing with my male friends why this is so upsetting. I want to talk it out, but that’s not for everyone.

The problem is that life moves on, and right now, it’s scary to keep moving forward in this world and as a woman. So right now, if you are scared, inhale deeply through your nose and hold it for a few seconds. Let it go through your mouth, and breathe.

In our capitalist society, we shop, we make comfort food, we jibber jabber on about things that we don’t even care about because we want to please others, but that time is done. Women, humans, it is not your job to please anyone; you aren’t weak or crazy for being upset or scared. The people who work in counseling want to help you, your friends want to help you and if neither of them can help you in the ways you need, I’m going to tell you right now you don’t need them to, and it is okay to move on and look for other outlets for your own sanity. Be full, be sad, be angry, be beautiful, be smart, be creative, be who you are, and if that someone is upset right now, then be that and fight. Fight for sex education of all genders, fight for equal rights, fight to keep each other safe.

If you can though, focus on something positive. Clean, cook, smash stuff safely, talk, swear, scream, go for a jog, go hit a punching bag, read and escape to another world, write to build your own, get a squeezy stress ball thing, but you aren’t going to get anywhere by eating all of your emotions, or shopping into debt or lashing out at the wrong men, or deciding that humanity is garbage because this happened. One man got one job; he shouldn’t have. It shouldn’t stop you from pursuing everything you want.

Go out, go vote. Get the representatives that you want and be the hero that you and your daughters need whether it be voting or maybe running for office yourself one day.