Bioethics Blogs

Why We Need a Male Pill: Enhancing Men’s Reproductive Autonomy and Unburdening Women’s Contraceptive Responsibility

One of the key tenets of
reproductive autonomy is being able to control if, when, and with whom one
reproduces. Men’s reproductive autonomy is inhibited by the lack of good
contraceptive options available to them. Whereas women have 11 types of contraceptives—including
barrier, hormonal, permanent, and long-acting reversible—men only have two
types—the male condom, a barrier method, and vasectomy, a permanent method. It
is not just the number of methods that is problematic; it is also the lack of long-acting
reversible contraceptives (LARCs). Many men want to maintain their future
fertility, thus ruling out vasectomy, but do not want to rely on condoms,
especially if they are in a long-term monogamous relationship. While part of
the reason some men do not like condoms is because they can decrease sexual
sensation, another reason is that the failure rate for actual use is so high:
17%. Female LARCs, in contrast, have much lower failure rates for actual use,
which enhances their reproductive autonomy because they are equipped with effective
methods to enact their reproductive desires (i.e. avoiding pregnancy).

The lack of male LARCS causes some
men to rely upon their female partner to contraceptive since she has more and
better contraceptive options. Yet this dependence on his partner may also
comprise his reproductive autonomy because he has to trust that she is
consistently and correctly using female methods. If she does become pregnant,
he has no recourse and, in many settings, is legally responsible for any
offspring, including financial and even social obligations to the child.

Placing the majority of
contraceptive responsibility on women due to the lack of male methods is not just
bad for men; it is also bad for women.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.