Although a veritable cornucopia of birth control options exists for women, men currently only have the condom available to them — which is unfair, if you think about it, because it takes two to create a wriggling human life. Fortunately, science may have finally come up with a contraceptive equalizer: the elusive male birth control.
Male birth control has existed as a scientific possibility for years now. However, because it's not exactly profitable, the pharmaceutical industry has essentially shoved it aside while looking to engorge its profit margins in an avaricious celebration of capitalism. Despite this lack of substantive funding, the Parsemus Foundation recently announced a reversible form of non-hormonal male birth control called Vasalgel is proving effective in a baboon study.
According to a press release:
Three baboon subjects from the original study have now had Vasalgel for 6 months... To make sure that it is still working prior to reversal, we decided to give all of the males an opportunity to mate with females to ensure that no pregnancies occur. Each of the three male baboons was moved into enclosures with 10-15 females (yes, that's 10-15 each!) a month ago. And the good news? So far no pregnancies. But they will remain with the females for at least a few more weeks just to be sure.
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Vasagel functions like a temporary vasectomy: in the procedure, a polymer contraceptive is injected directly into the vas deferens — the tube through which sperm is transported — blocking any sperm that attempts to travel through. If a man wishes to restore the flow of sperm, he can get a second injection to flush the polymer out. (The Parsemus Foundation press release says they'll attempt to flush the Vaselgel out of the baboons next month, and the procedure has proven effective in a prior rabbit study).
According to the foundation's FAQ page, they hope to start human trials in 2015, and, "if everything goes well and with enough public support," they hope to get Vasalgel on the market by 2016-2017.
As Samantha Allen points out at the Daily Beast, this could change the entire way we conceptualize birth control. Since the advent of contraception (which was a really, really long time ago), we've "been approaching birth control as a way of temporarily preventing fertilization inside a woman's body," she notes. But Vasalgel and other treatments like it show that that's not necessarily the only way to prevent pregnancy. We can, as she puts it, "block sperm at the source." Having a multitude of options makes sense: again, it takes two to get someone pregnant, so why should women alone bear the entire responsibility for avoiding unwanted pregnancies?
Especially now, when a war is continually being waged on women's reproductive autonomy under the flimsy auspice of "sincerely held religious beliefs," it would be interesting to see how male contraception is treated. As the saying goes: "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." If men could have semi-permanent contraception procedures, would their insurance coverage constitute a violation of religious beliefs? Somehow I doubt it.
Image via Getty.