Do Women Really Want a Male Birth Control Pill?

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Women
have long lamented the unequal burden they shoulder in the area
of contraception. Today researchers are reportedly close to perfecting
a male contraceptive that is free of side effects, easy to take,
and reversible. But do women really want a male birth control pill?

Power
is the reward which comes with responsibility. For example, during
the Cold War Americans complained about the money and manpower spent
protecting a reputedly ungrateful world from communism. Yet these
sacrifices also helped give the United States great geopolitical
power, with its attendant perks and privileges.

Similarly,
while women legitimately complain that biology has condemned them
to bear the burden of contraception, this burden also gives women
control over one of the most important parts of any human being's
life – reproduction. The male birth control pill will shift much
of that control from women to men. Is the following conversation
far away?

Woman
#1: "My [husband, boyfriend, significant other] is selfish.
He’s on the pill and won't get off. I've asked him to stop taking
it but he always says he's not ready. He just won't grow up. I don't
know what to do."

Woman
#2: "That's what the pill has given men – a right to be perpetual
adolescents. It's given them veto power over women who want to have
children."

Despite
the stigma that will develop against men who take the pill, the
pill will be a success. While most women are responsible and want
to have children with a willing, committed partner, studies show
that lack of reproductive control can be a major problem for
men today. For example, the National Scruples and Lies Survey 2004
polled 5,000 women in the United Kingdom for That's Life!
magazine. According to that survey, 42% of women claim they would
lie about contraception in order to get pregnant, regardless of
the wishes of their partners.  Jo Checkley, the editor of That's
Life!, is correct when she says "to deliberately get pregnant
when your partner doesn't want a baby is playing Russian roulette
with other people's lives.”

According
to research conducted by Joyce Abma of the National Center for Health
Statistics and Linda Piccinino of Cornell University, over a million
American births each year result from pregnancies which men did
not intend.

The
male pill will fill a genuine economic need. Child support levels
are rising, generally comprising 15–25% of take-home pay for
one child, in addition to add-ons for child care, health care, and
other costs. There is also a trend towards extending child support
obligations beyond the age of 18, and child support enforcement
is increasingly wide-ranging and effective.

Moreover,
most men realize that it's difficult to remain a part of their children's
lives once the relationship with the children's mother has broken
down, particularly if the children were born outside of marriage.
The pill will help ensure that men only have children in the context
that's best for men – a stable marriage.

The
advent of the female birth control pill greatly aided women's struggle
for autonomy and fulfillment. The male birth control pill will also
create great changes, but these changes will not be to some women's
liking. Be careful what you ask for – you might get it.

This
column was first published in Newsday (4/11/05).

April
22, 2005

Glenn
Sacks [send him mail]
is a men’s and fathers’ issues columnist and a nationally-syndicated
radio talk show host
. His columns have appeared in dozens of
America’s largest newspapers. He invites readers to visit his
website
.

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