Male or Female: Birth Control
When two people have sex, who makes sure they don’t get pregnant? And, who should be responsible for making sure no one gets pregnant?
Women have many contraceptive options. However, some of them have serious side effects. The pill, for example, can lead to infertility issues down the line and has been linked to depression and mood swings. The IUD has caused perforated uteruses and copper poisoning. The diaphragm can lead to genital irritation and burning while urinating.
Men just have one option, the condom. The only side effect — some men think they make sex less fun. It’s also not as reliable at preventing pregnancy as the pill. However, it’s a dual purpose item — it also helps prevent STDs. And it’s cheaper then the pill or IUDs or diaphragms. Plus it comes in different flavors and textures…
If there was a male pill that prevented pregnancy, would men be willing to give it a try? What if the male pill carried similar side effects to a woman’s contraceptive pill?
Should it be the woman who has to deal with the costs of preventing a pregnancy? Or should both partners cooperate? Split the costs and the side effects?
When considering costs — remember that while Viagra is covered by most insurance, infertility treatments are not.
Suppose a woman takes the pill for several years, then finds the right person and gets married. They decide to have a child, but discover that, thanks to her years on the pill, her fertility has been adversely affected. Now they are stuck paying for IVF and other treatments out of pocket.
This doesn’t even consider the other reproductive costs women pay — things like tampons, for example. Or treatments for bladder infections, which women sometimes have to deal with thanks to enthusiastic lovers.
Some might think, too bad, these things should be the woman’s responsibility. After all, it’s her body, and, if she gets pregnant, her choice. She decides if she wants to carry the baby to term or get an abortion, put it up for adoption or keep it. How much say does the father have in these decisions?
Who cares about the anguish of a potential father who wanted the child that his girlfriend aborted? Or has sympathy for the man paying child support for a child he didn’t want?
It’s these men, the ones who are gainfully employed, footloose and fancy free that might want to seriously consider effective male contraception. After all, every time they have sex, they risk an unwanted pregnancy that could lead to 18 years of child support. How’s that for an economic incentive?
I have several male friends who have told me that their SO swore she was on the pill, then got pregnant and admitted she’d been lying.
In one case, my friend was married and planning a divorce when this happened. He ended up staying in the marriage an extra few years, trying to make it work for the child, then was on the hook for child support. He loves his son but isn’t happy about the situation he found himself in.
On the other hand, many women do not trust men to remember birth control, and they know that ultimately it really is their body that will pay the cost if a pregnancy occurs.
In Nigeria, birth rates are still very high. According to World Bank statistics, the average number of children per woman is 5.5. That’s among the highest in the world. Unsurprisingly, it’s linked to lack of education and freedom for women. Women want fewer children but cannot convince men to use birth control, and the men are the ones in charge.
However, when women are educated and have more freedom and control over their lives, birth rates fall. Maybe this is another area where, fair or not, the responsibility and risks need to remain in the hands of women.
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