With reproductive rights at the forefront of the political conversation in the United States at the moment, it might be worth going back to a TED Talk from 2016, where Christen Reighter was denied a tubal ligation procedure to prevent conception.
In her TEDx Women’s talk, she addressed her conflicting story about being denied the procedure. She talks about her decision being formed by choice, not to bear a child for personal reasons, as well as the reactions by doctors.
Several physicians, she said, declined to do procedure because they believed she was “too young“ or “hadn’t thought this decision through.” But in fact, she had thought through this decision numerous times and met all of the legal requirements to receive the procedure.
Reighter and her ‘Selfish’ decision
Through countless appointments with doctors, Reighter said in her TEDx talk, that the majority of her physicians deemed her decision as “selfish,” for she may “change her mind” further down the road.
But Reighter said, “I have never wanted children. Motherhood/parenthood was never a drive that I had.”
With these messages telling her how she should feel about this choice, she became very aware and very wary that their intentions were not to guide her, but to mold her back into her role as a woman.
I have never wanted children. Motherhood/parenthood was never a drive that I had.
“Society clings to this role as a woman to always want or need to bear children,” Reighter said while questioning her physicians’ clinical opinion.
Reighter and her doctors
Recognizing her views on conception, many of Reighter’s doctors labeled her a “little girl” for denying herself this role of motherhood.
Feeling utterly objectified and scrutinized by her doctors, Reighter continued her search for a physician that would follow through with her choice to opt-out of conception. By displacing her identity from the roles of women, Reighter suggested it challenged traditional physicians to understand this progressive idea of shifting out of gender norms.
Society clings to this role as a woman to always want or need to bear children.Christen Reighter
‘Degrading and sexist system’
After a battle against what she claims as a “degrading and sexist system,” Reighter finally found a physician who respected her decision and granted her the procedure.
A standing ovation followed Reighter’s TEDx talk. Her story was widely recognized and admired at the Tedx Mile High Women’s event. One of the event’s spectators, Elena Lobato said: “Reighter’s ability to see past the cultural norms of women, and construct this idea that we shouldn’t always obey by these given roles, was profoundly inspiring.”
Lobato, a recent college graduate at the time, recognized the pressures that society puts on women to not only bear a child but want to bear one.
Reighter’s ability to see past the cultural norms of women, and construct this idea that we shouldn’t always obey by these given roles, was profoundly inspiring.Elena Lobato
In her final words, Reighter emphasized that “having a baby is an extension of women, not the definition of being a woman.” Which reflects the idea that social constructs aren’t necessarily set to mold us, but instead guide us to develop our own identities.
Check out Reighter’s TEDx talk below.