One of the five legal rights women have and men don’t is the right to choose parenthood. Consent to sex is not consent to parenthood for women, but it is for men. The new Vasagel birth control for men, which could be available in 2018, will significantly reduce the harm accrued by men’s lack of legal reproductive rights. Here are five significant harms that will be reduced with the introduction of birth control for men:
1. Birth control sabotage
Birth control sabotage is something that men do to women, and women do to men. In all cases, it is a despicable act, although not a criminal one. Also known as reproductive coercion, birth control sabotage is ‘a pattern of acts and behaviors in which one partner exerts control over another over reproduction, birth control, and pregnancy that relate to reproduction’. Feminists and domestic violence commentators insist that reproductive coercion is something men predominantly do to women, but if the experience of athletes and musicians is anything to go by, women are no strangers to deception when it comes to birth control. The availability of positive pregnancy tests on Craigslist suggests that women lying about their reproductive condition is not unusual. Male birth control will make reproductive coercion of men almost impossible.
2. Paternity fraud
In many US states, deceiving men into supporting children they did not biologically father is legal. The law does not consider siphoning money from men to support children another man has fathered to be either theft or fraud. It is, however, illegal to claim minors as children when they are not biologically related to parents for the purposes of immigration. Carnell Smith is a men’s rights activist who argues before state Supreme Courts to end this exploitation of men, and he has succeeded in several states, with several more hearings pending. Male birth control will give men control over their own potential to create children, which will necessarily make paternity fraud increasingly difficult.
3. Family planning timelines
In an interview in Details Magazine, a woman named Jody explains that in her circle of friends, making family planning decisions without consulting men is ‘normal’, and not condemned. Jody does not see trapping men into parenthood as manipulative, but instead, as a case of ‘hey, the timing’s right for me’. Shotgun weddings may have reached the end of their life cycle, but shotgun commitments have not. While Jody would no doubt consider herself an equal in her relationship, it’s clear that the concept of equality does not extend to including men as equal decision-makers in the creation of children and life-long responsibilities. Male birth control will make it impossible for women to arbitrarily decide the ‘timing’s right for me’, and will allow men to consciously consent to parenthood.
4. Child custody
Shared parenting laws presume both mothers and fathers as equal caregivers for children have consistently been defeated in the US, assisted by feminists including the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest organized feminist group in the country. Male birth control can effectively make these laws moot by giving men the opportunity to sign custodial agreements before a child is conceived.
Male birth control will put a nail in the coffin of traditional marriage, since unequal custody laws are the only reason men should consider getting married. Unmarried fathers have little chance of obtaining even visitation rights to their children, never mind shared custody. Only men married to the mothers of their children have a reasonable expectation of being treated equally, but if pre-conception agreements spelling out custody arrangements in the event of relationship breakdown are in place and enforced, then men have no reasons left to make the financially risky decision to legally wed.
Giving men control over their own reproductive choices, just as women have control over theirs, is likely to result in fewer children overall, but children who are very much wanted by both parents. In addition to a great reduction in harm against men, society will enjoy the benefits of having fewer unwanted children, and more equal relations between women and men.