Mon, Jun 10, 2019 - Page 7 News List

It is time for men to step up and share responsibility for birth control

Why does the onus of birth control always fall on women? With access to contraception and abortion under threat in the US, American men must do their part

By Moira Donegan  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Yusha

A woman who does not want to get pregnant can take a pill, or wear a patch or insert a hormone-filled ring into her vagina. She can have hormone-secreting implants inserted into her arm or her uterus, or she can have a copper IUD inserted, which prevents pregnancy without hormones.

She can get a shot. She can place a spermicide-soaked sponge next to her cervix prior to sex, or she can have herself fitted for a diaphragm or cervical cap that acts the same way.

If all else fails, she can use the morning-after pill, Plan B.

If she never, ever wants children, she can undergo major, irreversible surgery to get her tubes tied.

She does all of these herself, booking the doctor’s appointment (none of these birth control methods are available over the counter in the US, with the exception of Plan B), and paying out of pocket for the appointment or using her insurance benefits, if she has them.

The site of the birth control is on her body, and she alone will experience the side effects, which in the case of hormonal methods can be numerous and severe.

She cannot get pregnant alone — for that, she needs a male partner — but she prevents pregnancy alone. Birth control is perceived to be her responsibility, not his.

That birth control is largely a female responsibility and a female burden is not usually thought of as a bad thing. In fact, a primary virtue of many of the female birth control methods available is that they are woman-controlled, and do not require much in the way of male participation, male acquiescence or even male knowledge in order to be effectively used.

Women who think that their male partners will object to their use of birth control or attempt to stop it can use some methods secretly.

Women who think that their male partners will find birth control cumbersome to use or diminishing of their sexual pleasure can simply take care of it themselves, without his needing to be bothered.

Every other woman can simply use birth control to control her own life and her own destiny.

That the costs, side effects and responsibility are all the woman’s, and the woman’s alone, seems to many like a comparatively small injustice, compared with what birth control — which has only been considered a constitutional right by the US Supreme Court since 1965 — offers to women in terms of freedom, opportunity and self-determination.

Sure, the setup is still unfair, but it is exponentially better than what our grandmothers had to endure.

However, the freedom for women to use birth control on their own terms may not be guaranteed for long. Abortion opponents have taken aim at Roe [vs Wade] by building a legal argument that fertilized eggs should be treated as persons, and they have long claimed that many forms of birth control, such as IUDs and the morning-after pill, are abortifacients and should be outlawed (these contraceptives do not cause abortion).

They now have a majority of sympathizers on the Republican-controlled US Supreme Court.

In a weird and unwieldy opinion in a recent case involving an Indiana abortion law, Justice Clarence Thomas (of pube on the Coke can fame) mentioned contraception 36 times, even though contraception was not at issue in the case at hand.

His colleague Chief Justice John Roberts has referred to the right to privacy, on which the constitutional rights to contraception and abortion are based, as a “so-called right” not to be found in the constitution.

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