I was recently asked a very challenging question:
Is it technically Mutar for a woman to have her “tubes tied” to prevent her from ever having children again? There is no physical danger to the woman but the sheer difficulty her family is having raising the children they already have would not allow her/them to bring another child into the world. She is on (halachically permitted) birth control but would prefer to “guarantee” that no “accidents” would happen.
Any additional sources you can bring would be appreciated.
According to the vast majority of authorities, this is not permitted, and she should stick to methods of contraception that do not interfere with the actual reproductive system.
There is a dispute among authorities as to the nature of sirus concerning women. The Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha-Ezer 5:11) writes that the act of sirus for women involves a prohibition, but there is no liability, implying that there is a rabbinic prohibition alone. This is the simple reading of the Maggid Mishnah, which is the source of the ruling.
According to the Vilna Gaon, however, sirus for women involves a complete Torah prohibition. By contrast, the Perishah writes that the prohibition with regard to women involves the obligation of bearing children (which is not a full obligation for women), and the Taz writes that the prohibition is only the general prohibition of cause self-injury.
Concerning “tying tubes,” some authorities writes that this does not involve a complete act of sirus, and that there is therefore greater room for leniency: see especially Tzitz Eliezer (9:31 and 14:96), and see also Minchas Yitzchak 3:26). However, the Iggros Moshe (Even Ha-Ezer 3:12) implies that this is a complete case of sirus, and he rules stringently on the subject.
For cases of a woman’s physical danger, and where other forms of contraception are not viable options, there is some room for leniency, based on the factors above. However, in this case, which is a case of a regular healthy woman for whom alternative methods of contraception are legitimate options, one must use them rather than use the ‘permanent’ method of tying tubes.
See also here for a discussion of the issue from a different angle.