Posted by on 25 April 2005 at 6:35 am  Uncategorized
Apr 252005

I recently found this interesting commentary on the likely response to the impending birth control pill for men by Glenn Sacks on the ifeminists site. He writes:

Women have long lamented the unequal burden they shoulder in the area of contraception. Today researchers are reportedly close to perfecting a male contraceptive that is free of side effects, easy to take, and reversible. But do women really want a male birth control pill?

…while women legitimately complain that biology has condemned them to bear the burden of contraception, this burden also gives women control over one of the most important parts of any human being’s life–reproduction. The male birth control pill will shift much of that control from women to men. Is the following conversation far away?

Woman #1: “My [husband, boyfriend, significant other] is selfish. He’s on the pill and won’t get off. I’ve asked him to stop taking it but he always says he’s not ready. He just won’t grow up. I don’t know what to do.”

Woman #2: “That’s what the pill has given men–a right to be perpetual adolescents. It’s given them veto power over women who want to have children.”

Despite the stigma that will develop against men who take the pill, the pill will be a success. While most women are responsible and want to have children with a willing, committed partner, studies show that lack of reproductive control can be a major problem for men today. For example, the National Scruples and Lies Survey 2004 polled 5,000 women in the United Kingdom for That’s Life! magazine. According to that survey, 42% of women claim they would lie about contraception in order to get pregnant, regardless of the wishes of their partners.

…According to research conducted by Joyce Abma of the National Center for Health Statistics and Linda Piccinino of Cornell University, over a million American births each year result from pregnancies which men did not intend.

The article then briefly considers the serious, years-long burden of child support which may be imposed upon unwilling fathers. A male birth control pill could obviously put an end to much of that.

At present, women certainly do have a double power over procreation not enjoyed by men. First, the most reliable form of birth control, i.e. the pill, is taken or not by the woman, often out of the sight of the man. Second, only women have the power to opt out of pregnancy via abortion or out of child-rearing via adoption. A male birth control pill would offer men substantial control over contraception — and thus obviate much need (or wish) for abortion and adoption. Even with a male birth control pill, I still think that men ought to be able to opt out of fatherhood in the case of accidental pregnancy. Men ought not be placed into indentured servitude for 18 years due to bad luck.

I do suspect (and hope) that the author is wrong that a “stigma… will develop against men who take the pill”; the hypocrisy of that view would be too much for any reasonable person to bear. I’m sure that some women would lament the loss of their capacity to trick their man du jour into fatherhood. However, I suspect that such lamentations will be largely private, as they would reveal a rather twisted soul.

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