Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Guys On The Pill

Is that ever going to be the norm? A piece in Time discusses the reasons why we should all be quite pessimistic about the likelihood of a male contraceptive pill or injection or something of the sort. To create a safe and effective form of male-controlled birth control (other than the condom) is tricky for both scientific reason and cultural reasons. The latter have to do with both the assumption that not enough men are interested in having access to medical male-controlled birth control and that women wouldn't trust men to take care of contraception in the first place, unless they can see it happening with their own eyes (as is the case with the condom).

The Time article also mentions the high costs of developing new forms of birth control. If the market just isn't there the costs are not justified. But is the market there or not? I can see the reluctance of anyone (including us women) to possibly mess with the health of their bodies just for the sake of birth control. But many women do exactly that, and one might think that men might also be willing to do so because of the many advantages that control has.

As examples of those advantages one might mention the ability of a man to take over contraception when his partner can't tolerate the pill or uterine devices and when the couple doesn't like or trust condoms. But perhaps more importantly, a man cannot be the "victim" of paternity suits after one-night stands if he used good birth control himself. I would think that the Men's Rights Activists would be loud and vociferous in their demands for better male contraceptives. Wouldn't you?

If it is indeed true that the market for the male pill, say, is insufficiently large, the reason might be the simple fact that we already have the female pill. There is less need in general for additional forms of contraception. But note that the recent Bush administration attempts to equate the birth control pill and the intra-uterine devices with abortion might change that comfortable status quo. A male pill would do the prevention inside the male body and no stretch of pro-life imagination could make that into abortion!

Wouldn't it be weird if that was what made the male birth control pill a reality?