Fri. Mar 22nd, 2024

Will the male birth control pill start a new era of reproductive responsibility?

By Caterina Magnoni Mar 8, 2024
Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash

The battle for bodily integrity has historically centred around women’s reproductive rights. However, to truly dismantle the patriarchy’s control over reproduction, we must ask: why aren’t men held equally accountable for preventing unwanted pregnancies? As we all know, it takes two to tango. For centuries, the physical risks and emotional labour of contraception have been treated as inherently female burdens.

The development of the oral contraceptive pill in the 1960s was a landmark moment in women’s history, paving the way for emancipation and reshaping societal expectations. Women could now pursue higher education, establish careers without the risk of unplanned pregnancies and experience sexual pleasure and freedom without constantly fearing the consequences. Today, 851 million women in the world use a modern contraceptive method.

 While securing access to safe and reliable abortion and various female contraceptive options remains crucial, we should also be questioning why the responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancies still rests so heavily on women’s shoulders. The contraceptive methods available to men today are only condoms and vasectomies, one the most effective forms of birth control, with a 99.85% effective rate. Vasectomies can be reversed, but this doesn’t guarantee success in conceiving a child. Women, on the other hand, can choose between oral contraceptive pills, the vaginal ring, the emergency pill, injections, skin implants and intra-uterine devices (IUDs). No wonder why the burden of preventing pregnancy continues to fall on women disproportionately.

In December 2023, researchers began testing a non-hormonal male birth control pill that prevents sperm production by blocking access to vitamin A. According to experts at its manufacturer, YourChoice Therapeutics, the pill is “99% effective and 100% reversible, with no side effects”. The question now arises if a male contraceptive pill were available, would men be willing to use it? A 2023 YouGov survey showed that among sexually active straight and bisexual men aged 18-44, 52% said they would definitely or probably take hormonal contraception and 35% were against the idea, saying they would “probably” or “definitely” not consider taking it.

Although the lack of diverse and accessible male birth control options is a symptom of a system that views male pleasure and convenience as paramount, I believe that every woman should always continue to choose her own method of contraception, whether it is a pill, an implant, or an IUD. Even if a male birth control pill is created one day, if men forget to take it, those who might get pregnant will always be women. Yes, the potential arrival of male birth control should be seen as a positive step towards reproductive justice. However, it shouldn’t reduce the critical role of female-controlled options and the empowering choice they represent. This isn’t about maintaining the status quo or perpetuating an unfair burden. It’s about challenging the rooted gender norms that dictate who should be responsible for birth control. It’s time to reaffirm that women and people with uteruses —not men, not society—should always have the final say on contraception.

Related Post