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In a post-Roe world, these Utah women are considering sterilization as a form of protection

Erica Fryer, at home in Kearns, Utah, Aug. 2, 2022
Ivana Martinez
Erica Fryer in her home in Kearns, Utah. She said she’s scared of the Supreme Court coming after birth control next with the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Sara Reyes, 36, knows she doesn’t want kids. For her, the choice was settled years ago, but then Roe v. Wade was overturned and Utah attempted to implement its trigger law.

While the abortion ban remains held up in litigation, Reyes, who gets the Depo-Provera shot for birth control, said she’s scared that the Supreme Court will come after contraceptives next.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court revisit cases that have already been decided related to contraception and same-sex marriage.

Reyes, who lives in Salt Lake City, said she’s seeking more permanent solutions like tubal ligation, which involves tying or removing a person’s fallopian tubes. She and her partner have even discussed his option of also getting a vasectomy.

“That wouldn't protect me necessarily,” she said. “Right? So that's definitely a consideration for me. And I understand it's a much more complicated procedure for me than it would be for him to do this, but it's definitely weighing on my mind more, I need to protect myself [and] cover all my bases.”

Sara Reyes, at home in Salt Lake City, Aug. 2, 2022
Ivana Martinez
"I don't have any children and have never wanted children," Sara Reyes said at her home in Salt Lake City. "My parents immigrated here with me as a baby from Colombia. We didn't live in absolute poverty but we definitely struggled financially for most of my life. I think that experience deeply ingrained a need to be financially stable in my life and having children was certainly an obstacle to achieving that, it's only gotten harder for American families in this respect."

More and more young women in the state are seeking sterilization in the new post-Roe world, according to Dr. Misha Pangasa, a board-certified OB-GYN. And Utah isn't alone, women in states where abortion access has already been restrictive, like Texas, are seeking these options. The same can even be said for states with reproductive choice protections, like Colorado.

“I've seen patients who are younger and younger seeking permanent options for contraception because they're afraid of what care might be restricted from them in the future,” Pangasa said. “There's less severe versions of that conversation where people want to replace their IUDs right now, even if they have more time on them because they don't know what the future looks like. People are afraid of not being able to control their reproduction. Controlling your own reproduction is so fundamentally important to women — being able to live their lives the way that they want to.”

Access to that kind of health care can also be difficult to come by. Many Utah providers are often uncomfortable providing that care to younger patients, Pangasa said. As a result, she sees many of those referrals.

“There are a lot of providers who just don't trust women's decisions,” Pangasa said. “Unfortunately, the whole field of medicine has been based on this idea of paternalism, of [doctors] knowing better what is right for people and obviously, we have medical expertise about safety and evidence and options. But when it comes to somebody deciding what they want for their reproductive future, that is something that no doctor can decide for them.”

Pangasa said even when there are doctors who are willing to provide this health care, there are still legal hoops like state forms that must be signed 30 days prior. The process becomes more complicated if people have state Medicaid.

Erica Fryer, 27, a mother of two from Kearns, said she is also terrified of the courts restricting contraception. She said she can’t risk getting pregnant again due to health concerns.

“‘Oh, the Utah trigger law, it will protect you if you're on your deathbed or if you're at risk of dying,’” she said. “But that's my question, is it when I'm on my deathbed? The things I've had to deal with during my pregnancies, I've had to deal with pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, I've had to deal with cholestasis. Both of those things can cause death. But at what point does the Utah law allow my doctor to perform an abortion on me?”

Erica Fryer, family photos on her fridge, Aug. 2, 2022
Ivana Martinez
Photos of Erica Fryer and her two babies at her home in Kearns. She said she wants to be there for her family but is scared that the Supreme Court might take away her right to birth control.

Fryer said she plans on meeting with her doctor in the next week to discuss getting her tubal ligation. She said she fears the state trigger law is too vague, and there hasn’t been a clear interpretation to give her peace of mind.

“I mean I had even thought of getting a hysterectomy. Just fully just getting everything taken out. But it's something that I am seriously going to discuss with my doctor, and with Roe v. Wade turning. I just can't risk [getting pregnant]. I can't risk it with my two kids and my husband.”

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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