If the use of polymer contraceptives were to become widespread, male birth control would completely transform the ways in which we understand sexual and reproductive health. Ever since men started wrapping animal intestines around their penises hundreds of years ago, we have been approaching birth control as a way of temporarily preventing fertilization inside a woman’s body. But what if we haven’t been able to see the forest through the ovaries? What if we could use polymer contraceptives like Vasalgel to block sperm at the source, rather than implementing expensive, convoluted, and potentially harmful contraceptive countermeasures inside women’s bodies?
If Vasalgel were to become as widespread and inexpensive as the Parsemus Foundation expects, unintended pregnancies could be substantially reduced. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. That figure rises to 80 percent of all pregnancies among women age 19 and younger, and to 90 percent below age 15. The physical, financial, and emotional toll of an unintended pregnancy can be immense. As a report from the Guttmacher Institute notes, the average cost of an abortion is $485, which “pose[s] a major financial burden for women seeking these services,” who are often lower income. Not all unintended pregnancies are unwanted, however, and given the fact that modern birth control has deep roots in Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s belief in eugenics, the benefits of male birth control for lower-income families in particular should not be overemphasized.
Even if we set the prevention of unintended pregnancies aside, however, the potentially deleterious side effects of female birth control are enough to justify the implementation of Vasalgel on their own. As WomensHealth.Gov notes, side effects of the birth control pill include an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, nausea, irregular bleeding, and depression. Less common methods of contraception like diaphragms and sponges can cause the rare and life-threatening toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Injections like Depo-Provera can cause bone loss and the use of intrauterine devices (IUDs) can potentially cause rips or tears in the uterus itself. It would take a commercial announcer a full minute of speed-reading to list off all the risks of every form of female birth control. Interrupting ovulation and fertilization is a complex process that requires a degree of hormonal regulation, often impacting other areas of a woman’s health.
But as luck would have it, you don’t have to tamper with testosterone in order to block sperm. It might seem as if men are unstoppable sperm machines, especially given the fact they produce 1,500 of them per second. But because sperm are as fickle as they are plentiful, technologies like Vasalgel and RISUG need not interfere with the production of sperm itself in the same way that female birth control often interferes with ovulation. Like the Little Dutch Boy walking by a dike on the brink of bursting, Vasalgel can simply plug up the vas deferens and stop an entire sea of sperm from crashing through. It promises to be a parsimonious solution to the age-old problem of preventing unwanted pregnancies. This is nothing short of Occam’s razor for your testicles.