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North Texans are seeking sterilizations after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Fort Worth Roe v. Wade Protest
Azul Sordo
/
KERA
Protesters march through Downtown Fort Worth during a pro-choice rally June 25, one day after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

More North Texans are seeking sterilization now that abortion access in the state is limited. That’s after the Supreme Court’s overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark case that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Dr. Jennifer Gulick, an OB-GYN in Frisco, said her practice has seen an increase in patients seeking tubal ligations, which involves tying or removing a person’s fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy.

“People are very scared to get unintentionally pregnant,” Gulick said.

Women seeking sterilization often face roadblocks. Kendall Stephano, who lives in Cypress, has been trying to get sterilized since she was 12 years old.

Stephano has a menstrual disorder that can cause uncontrollable bleeding when untreated. She was hospitalized for a week at age 12 after a three-month menstrual cycle.

“I've had to be on every single type of hormone replacement or birth control under the sun to try to find different things that worked for me,” Stephano said.

Since then, the 23-year-old has tried to get a doctor to sterilize her. Stephano said the birth control device she must use to manage her condition negatively affects her quality of life. Still, doctors have told her that she’s too young to get sterilized.

Stephano wants to be sterilized for more than just health reasons — she’s the administrator for Childfree Women, a Facebook group for women who don’t want children. It has more than 2,400 members.

There are lists circulating on social media of doctors who will perform sterilization procedures on younger patients. Gulick is on one of them.

The Frisco OB-GYN said she was trained to not perform a tubal ligation on anyone under the age of 30 because younger patients are more likely to regret getting the surgery. But she said more doctors are moving away from that line of thinking.

“It seems very paternalistic to tell somebody that they can't have this done if they're well informed and they understand the risks,” Gulick said.

Dr. Tim McAuliff, the urologist at Gentle Procedures Dallas in Richardson, is also on one of the social media lists of doctors who will sterilize younger patients. McAuliff, who performs vasectomies without a needle or a scalpel, said the number of vasectomy patients at his practice almost doubled just a couple of days after the Supreme Court’s decision.

McAuliff said a vasectomy is the most effective form of birth control — he said it’s up to 20 times more effective than a tubal ligation. It’s also an easier procedure for the patient. His patients can drive themselves to his office for their surgeries and be out an hour later.

“The actual surgery itself takes less than 15 minutes,” McAuliff said.

Meanwhile, Gulick said patients getting their tubes tied typically have to go to the hospital and undergo anesthesia.

Both of Stephano’s parents have been sterilized. Her mother, who has the same bleeding disorder as her, had a hysterectomy at age 50. Stephano said her father’s recovery was much easier than her mother’s.

“He sat on [frozen] peas for a day and was fine,” she said. “My mother had to go through a very invasive surgery with a long recovery time.”

Stephano, who’s had multiple doctors tell her she’s too young to get sterilized, said vasectomies are also more accessible. She had a partner who was able to schedule his vasectomy after one appointment. Meanwhile, Stephano is about to see a third doctor about getting sterilized.

Still, Stephano said she has more hope about her next appointment turning out in her favor because of doctors like Gulick and McAuliff.

Gulick said she’s glad there are resources out there for patients like Stephano online that can help them find doctors like her who will listen. No matter what happens to abortion access in Texas, Gulick said she wants to support her patients to the best of her ability.

“I’m still trying to give my patients the best information that I can, given the ever-changing situation,” she said.

Got a tip? Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Caroline at  clove@kera.org. You can follow Caroline on Twitter @carolinelove37.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.