It is something feminists, male and female, have been waiting for for a long time: male birth control. The pharmaceutical industry, more interested in male erections has ignored our pleas. Well an Indian man has come up with a very promising birth control for men.
Basically, a procedure very similar to a vasectomy is performed but instead of snipping the vas deferens, a polymer compound is injected into the tube. According to the developers of the method, the compound interferes with the spermatic cell membranes, rendering them incapable of egg fertilizations. Sperm production and male hormones are not affected. In clinical trials thus far, the method is reported to be 100% effective. There are no reported side effects and not one woman has been impregnated by a treated man. The developers also report that the method may be reversible with a repeat injection, though this data has not yet been published. The article suggests that it is about 2 years away from approval in India, although it may be years before rigorous clinical trials are initiated in Europe and North America.
I could go on a rant about how it’s about damn time men were able to share the burden of avoiding pregnancy with women, because it certainly is. Or perhaps the likelihood that insurance companies, and heck the US government, will fund this while women are left to pay for their own birth control, which is certainly a possibility. But what I am excited about is the possibility that this could reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Couples now don’t have to rely on a woman’s birth control or condoms. Couples who want to be doubly sure can have the man treated and then they won’t have to worry about broken condoms or a missed pill. The beauty of this product, RISUG (for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), is that it isn’t subject to human error like the pill, it isn’t hormonal like almost every female birth control, and it doesn’t break. U.S. politicians are in a race to reduce the abortion rate by restricting access but I’d bet the farm that this male birth control will do more than every law combined in reducing the rate of abortions. That is of course assuming men are taught about it.
Perhaps when women no longer bear the burden almost exclusively for preventing pregnancy, politicians will stop blaming them almost exclusively for its occurrence. Perhaps when our discussion about contraception includes men, men will take part in our discussions about abortions. Men will now have a responsible way to prevent pregnancy. They won’t have to rely on women to prevent pregnancy. It will no longer be the woman’s decision whether to avoid pregnancy. If a man doesn’t want kids then he can take control of his body and his own reproduction.
Men currently stand very much on the edges when it comes to reproduction. Their options for preventing pregnancy in their partners is almost non-existent; they basically range from effectively permanent to exceedingly temporary. Now they will have a long-term option that is reversible when the time is right. Just as women can get an IUD for a long-term solution, men can get RISUG. The availability of a non-hormonal male birth control with no side effects may encourage pharmaceutical companies to come up with something similar for women. Why could the same polymer not work to destroy eggs as they travel down the fallopian tubes? I am excited for the possibilities that male birth control holds. I am excited to have men join in the discussion of pregnancy prevention. I am excited to give men the same choice to control their reproduction as women have. I’m also a little bit excited to see how right-wing nut jobs deal with it. They currently have a field day denying contraception to women since they think sex is a moral issue. I wonder if they will gleefully deny men the same access. Something tells me this will be different in their eyes.