Men Across the United States Are Having Vasectomies “For Love”

After Andy and Erin Gress had their fourth child, Andy decided it was time for him to “take it to the next level” and help with family planning. So he did something other than the thought of making some men cringe: he had a vasectomy.

It was early one morning last winter – a brief moment of peace, before juggling getting kids ready for online school and Zoom calls at work. He saw a local report on the discounts offered on “World Vasectomy Day”. He made an appointment that day.

His wife had taken birth control pills, but she was battling the side effects. She had worked as a night nurse during four pregnancies and the couple had children aged 2 to 11.

“The procedure was a total relief, almost like the covid hit – like I was safe now,” said Gress, who works in higher education. “I wanted to elevate myself. “

But Gress’s action wasn’t just about his family. He also believed he should do more to support his wife and other women who don’t think the government should be deciding what to do with their bodies. “I saw the miracle of life,” he says. “But I have also seen children who are born into poverty and misery and are unlucky.”

While the Supreme Court is expected to decide the fate of Roe v. Wade next year and as more than 20 states are set to ban or impose restrictions on abortion based on the court ruling, some reproductive rights advocates say it’s time for them. men to take a more active role decision in family planning and the fight for reproductive rights.

In their own form of protest, lawmakers in the states of Alabama, Illinois, and Pennsylvania have introduced legislation that highlights gender double standards when it comes to reproductive rights.

Pennsylvania State Representative Chris Rabb, a Democrat, this fall introduced a “parody” law in response to Texas law that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion. Rabb’s proposal would require men to have a vasectomy after the birth of their third child or at age 40, whichever comes first. It would be enforced by allowing Pennsylvanians to report men who did not comply, for a reward of $ 10,000.

“As long as state legislatures continue to restrict the reproductive rights of cis women, trans men, and non-binary people, there should be laws that address the responsibility of the men who impregnate them.” So my bill will also codify “misconception” to include when a person has been negligent in preventing conception during sex, “Rabb wrote in a memo on his proposal, as reported by the Keystone.

Rabb, a father of two who had a vasectomy in 2008, noted that he only had to discuss his choice with his wife and urologist. The purpose of his proposal, he said, was to highlight the sexism, double standard and hypocrisy inherent in the anti-abortion debate. But he exploded in a way he never expected.

“I underestimated the vitriolic this proposal brought,” Rabb said in an interview, adding that he had received thousands of hate emails, Facebook posts and even death threats. “The idea that a man would have to endure or even think about losing his bodily autonomy has sparked outrage as women face it every day and it is somehow acceptable for the government to invade the wombs. women and girls, but it should be banned. if you offer vasectomies or limit the reproductive rights of men.

Since December 1, when the Supreme Court heard a case that should decide the future of Roe v. Wade, social media has been filled with tweets, memes and jokes using tongue-in-cheek humor to show how the role of males in reproduction is almost never talked about. “Against abortion? Have a vasectomy, ”says a bumper sticker.

[If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion access in Alaska would remain. Opponents see a constitutional convention as a pathway to end it.]

Koushik Shaw, a doctor at the Austin Urology Institute in Texas, said his practice saw an approximately 15% increase in planned vasectomies after the Texas abortion ban went into effect on September 1.

Patients say, “Hey, I’m actually here because some of these changes that [Gov. Greg] Abbott and our legislature have passed laws that really impact our decision-making in terms of family planning ‘, so that was a new reason for me – the first time patients cite state law as a factor motivation, ”Shaw mentioned.

Advocates say they want to be clear: they don’t advocate vasectomy as a substitute for the right to have an abortion, nor do they believe that men should have a say in the decision to abort. In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Danforth that the father’s consent to an abortion was no longer required, largely due to a risk of violence or coercion in a relationship.

Doctors who perform vasectomy say they want men to be open and comfortable talking about the procedure instead of shrinking in horror at the idea, said Doug Stein, a urologist known as “King of Vasectomy” for his billboards, coasters and child support advertisements. offices in Florida.

“An act of love,” for their partners, “the ultimate way to be a good man,” is how he and others market the procedure.

“It is a remarkable trend in the family planning community to recognize and promote vasectomy and birth control for men, where it was once considered more marginal,” said Sarah Miller, family physician who has a private practice in Boston and joined the Stein movement.

Advances in the 10-minute needle-and-scalpel-free procedure need a cultural push and maybe a bit of fun to make men less shy of doctors approaching their “trash,” said Stein.

He has a full-time vasectomy and vasectomy reversal practice in Tampa and has traveled the world performing the procedure. He was inspired by his concern for population growth, but he also wanted to empower men.

Stein, a father of two, had his own vasectomy over 20 years ago.

Reliable statistics on the number of men who have requested a vasectomy since the Texas ban and the United States Supreme Court hearing are not available, doctors say. But, Miller said, she saw an increase in patient numbers at the small clinic she opened in Boston less than three years ago because she couldn’t believe “the lack of options for men and women. people with masculine parts “.

At one point, she was told that vasectomy was not considered part of family planning and that she had to make her own arrangements to get the necessary training.

“It warms my heart to hear men say, ‘I’m so nervous, but I know this is NOTHING compared to what my wife has been through,'” she said in an e- mail.

“It’s outrageous that we don’t have more birth control options for people with human parts,” Miller said. “There is even a mistaken feeling that birth control is not a man’s job. The men cannot be trusted, or that they would never be interested, and this has led to a lack of funding and development, ”she said.

Engaging men in the abortion debate is tricky, experts say, because on the abortion rights side, men don’t want to be seen as questioning a woman’s right to choose. And on the anti-abortion side, the procedure is considered murder. But some abortion rights advocates argue that men have a huge stake in legal and safe abortions, and “the fact that we don’t fight as hard as women are shameful,” said Jonathan Stack, co- founder with Stein of World Vasectomy Day.

“The quality of life of millions of men will be affected if this right is taken away from women,” said Stack, a documentary filmmaker who has made a film about Stein called “The Vasectomist.”

Stack said that while filming the documentary he would ask the men, “Why are you choosing to do this? “

“They expressed something that is rarely heard in movies about men – love, kindness or caring,” he said.

“I had once come to believe that there was a story about masculinity that wasn’t told – no power and control or rage, but alienation, insecurity, uncertainty and insecurity. scared, “he said.

“We already know that men don’t always want to wear condoms, or they don’t work, or they just take them off,” Esgar Guarín said with a sigh and a chuckle. He’s a family doctor who runs SimpleVas in Iowa and performed the Gress vasectomy.

Guarín trained under Stein and joined his movement. “We need to invest in helping men understand how easy and safe vasectomies are,” he said. After having two children, Guarín had a vasectomy.

Doctors have also started “responsible men’s clubs”, discussion groups where men can share information such as how perfect sexual performance is after the procedure, and that it “doesn’t take away their manhood,” but actually a better man, ”Guarín said.

A man asked for some sort of “vasectomy passport,” a letter from Guarín to show his wife that sex would now be worry-free.

Brad Younts, 45, said his wife, Lizz Gardner, wanted him to become a “vasectomy evangelist” after going through the “simple procedure” without any problems.

“Men are big babies. Considering everything women go through – periods, Pap smears, OB / GYN visits, ”said Younts, who lives in Chicago. “I am proud to have done it. And I told two friends about it who are also looking at it. “

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