Just hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, swiftly erasing a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, men started requesting vasectomies in record numbers.
A vasectomy procedure is a form of male birth control that is generally considered permanent, though it can be reversible in some cases.
Urologists told The Washington Post that in the days following the Roe ruling, men started requesting the procedure in droves to prevent future pregnancies now that abortion rights are left up to individual states. Also increasing their concern is the fact that in his supporting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas opened the door to invite legal challenges to contraception in the future. And now, some men aren’t taking any chances.
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Doug Stein, MD, and his associate, John Curington, MD, urologists based in Florida, told The Post that the Roe ruling is a significant factor in many of their patients’ decisions to request the procedure. “Many of the guys are saying that they have been thinking about a vasectomy for a while, and the Roe v. Wade decision was just that final factor that tipped them over the edge and made them submit the online registration,” said Dr. Stein.
Drs. Stein and Curington are also seeing more men under the age of 30 requesting a vasectomy.
“I’d say at least 60 or 70 percent are mentioning the Supreme Court decision,” Curington said. “And a few of them have such sophistication as young men that they actually are thinking about Justice Thomas and his opinion that contraception may fall next. And that’s shocking. That’s something that doesn’t enter into our conversations ever, until this week,” he told The Post.
The rise seems to be happening around the country. Los Angeles urologist Philip Werthman reported a “300 to 400 percent” increase in vasectomy consultations recently, while Iowa urologist Esgar Guarín has seen a “200 to 250 percent” increase in traffic on his website that offers information about vasectomies.
Even after the draft majority opinion was leaked in early May, search volume around vasectomy procedures started to skyrocket, with daily searches increasing by 99% in the week after the draft opinion was published.
It’s a sign that it’s not only people with uteruses who are afraid for their reproductive rights, and that the conversation around male birth control is becoming more mainstream. "Men are joining the conversation around reproductive rights and some are stepping up to help prevent unwanted pregnancies themselves," Madyson St. John, a researcher on behalf of Innerbody Research, told TODAY Parents.
For decades, women have borne the brunt of managing contraception, but it feels now like the tides are (slowly) turning. Men are starting to carry more of the weight when it comes to family planning.
What is a vasectomy?
Colloquially called “the snip,” a vasectomy is a medical procedure that cuts off the supply of sperm to semen. It’s a simple surgery that involves snipping and sealing off the tubes that carry sperm (the vas deferens), which prevents sperm from leaving the body, causing sterilization.
The quick surgery is usually performed by a doctor in an office, clinic or hospital, and in most cases, there’s no need for an overnight stay. The procedure is considered extremely safe: There’s a very low risk of complications or side effects, and recovery time is just over a week.
But according to 2015 data from the United Nations, women are twice as likely to get a sterilization procedure (like a tubal ligation) than men.
How effective is a vasectomy?
Vasectomies are nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, though sterilization doesn’t happen immediately. It can take about three months for sperm to be free of semen. A semen analysis after the surgery can help you know when sperm is sterile. Vasectomies are the most effective form of male birth control we have at this point—much more effective than condoms.
Is a vasectomy reversible?
A vasectomy is intended to be a permanent form of birth control, but it can be reversible, though not always. You should only undergo a vasectomy if you’re absolutely sure you don’t want any future children, as there’s no guarantee that your fertility will return. It may be a good option for you if your family feels complete. A successful reversal may depend on how long ago the procedure was performed, what type of vasectomy you had, and whether your body has developed antibodies to sperm.
Reversal can be much more complicated and costly than the original procedure: While a vasectomy may be covered under insurance, reversal procedures are generally not covered. Be sure to talk over any questions you may have with your doctor before undergoing the procedure.