A doctor at the Austin Urology Institute in Texas says his practice saw “about a 15% increase in scheduled vasectomies” since a near-total abortion ban took effect in Texas on Sept. 1, per a new report by the Washington Post.
According to the doctor, Koushik Shaw, patients are telling him, “‘Hey, I’m actually here because some of these changes that [Texas Gov. Greg] Abbott and our legislature have passed that are really impacting our decision-making in terms of family planning,’ so that was a new one for me as a reason—the first time, patients are citing a state law as their motivating factor,” Shaw told the Post.
State legislatures impacting “decision-making in terms of family planning” for cisgender men might be “new” for them, but I for one vividly remember the day Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, because I immediately checked my insurance and called my doctor to schedule an appointment for a Nexplanon insertion.
The telling statistic comes from the Post at a critical time for reproductive rights in this country, as Texas’ abortion ban remains in effect and has forced a significant increase in out-of-state travel for abortion, and as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the future of abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. The role of cis men in helping partners to obtain abortion or birth control or prevent unwanted pregnancy at all has long evaded conversations about the issue, beyond new breakthroughs in male hormonal birth control every few years that often fail to immediately change anything.
The political and societal damage of assigning gender to birth control use and the responsibility of pregnancy prevention as a whole could be the subject of a book—and it actually is: Just Get on the Pill: The Uneven Burden of Reproductive Politics by Krystale E. Littlejohn. One telling stat reveals among married men, 13.1% reported vasectomies compared to 21.1% of married women reporting tubal sterilizations. This is despite how, of the two reversible sterilization methods, vasectomies are simpler and have a lower complication rate than tubal ligations. There’s also the undeniable burden that hormonal birth control use can impose on people capable of getting pregnant, from side effects to cost and accessibility issues. Birth control should always be an option available to pregnant people, but the cultural pressures to shoulder sole responsibility for preventing pregnancy have gone unchallenged for far too long. It’s great to see cis men take a cue from the rise of abortion bans across the country and step up, but this sort of proactiveness is long overdue.
Sarah Miller, a family medicine doctor who provides vasectomies, told the Post that even in Boston, she’s seen an increase in patients seeking vasectomies since the Texas ban took effect. “It warms my heart to hear men say, ‘I am so nervous, but I know this is NOTHING compared to what my wife has gone through,’” she told the newspaper. Doug Stein, founder of World Vasectomy Day, is a urologist known as the “Vasectomy King” for his work in not only providing vasectomies, but also training others to provide them, and leading global awareness campaigns to promote the procedure to cis men. He markets it as “an act of Love” cis men can perform for their partners, and even “the ultimate way to be a good man.”
It’s important to emphasize World Vasectomy Day advocates oppose mandatory vasectomies for men. What we should take away from the rise in abortion bans, and any restrictions that attack the rights and autonomy of pregnant people, isn’t that men or anyone should be required to undergo forced sterilizations. It’s that people of all genders need to step up and challenge the culture that punishes pregnant people and normalizes government reproductive coercion—through personal acts like vasectomies or helping partners get abortions, and certainly political protest of these laws.