While the way Vasalgel works inside a man’s body might be simple, its cultural impact would be complex. The Religious Right, in particular, has grown accustomed to a world in which regulating access to birth control means regulating women’s bodies, rather than men’s bodies. Although the Affordable Care Act began offering women no-to-low-cost contraceptive coverage in 2010, the Supreme Court’s now-infamous Hobby Lobby ruling this summer allowed “closely-held corporations” to offer health insurance plans without contraceptive coverage. The Hobby Lobby ruling is already being used to try to undermine Obamacare’s contraceptive requirement altogether. This week, Missouri state Representative Paul Wieland’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services went to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court will consider whether or not it is constitutional for “closely-held corporations” to be able to opt out of contraceptive coverage while states like Missouri cannot.
Lost in all of this legal conflict, however, is the fact that Hobby Lobby, of course, still covers vasectomies. But what if vasectomies were cheap, non-invasive, fully reversible, and as widespread as the female birth control pill? Would businesses like Hobby Lobby begin to object to them? If Vasalgel became popular and affordable enough to surpass female birth control, it would put the Religious Right’s opposition to contraception to the test. As The New York Times reported in 2012, many on the Religious Right justify their opposition to some forms of birth control by equating them with abortion because they “prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.” But if men’s bodies became the primary site for birth control, would religious leaders shift their rhetoric and take issue with a technology like Vasalgel on the grounds that it prevents life on a massive scale? Or do debates about life only have meaning when they take place over women’s bodies?
If the Parsemus Foundation’s optimistic timeline for the release of Vasalgel holds true, we may be forced to confront these questions sooner than expected. In the meantime, men, prepare for the possibility that you may soon take over primary responsibility for contraception from your wife or girlfriend. The future of birth control is coming and soon it might be inside of you.