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As access to vasectomies improves, this author says men need even more birth control options

EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview contains content that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona earlier this month started offering vasectomies at its central Phoenix health center.

A year earlier, the group had started offering the procedure in its Tucson center in response to the Dobbs decision, which struck down Roe v. Wade.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona says nearly half of the patients getting vasectomies in Tucson were coming from metro Phoenix, which is why it decided to start offering the service here.

The announcement came before the Arizona Supreme Court ruled last week that an 1864 near-total ban on abortion supersedes a more recent 15-week ban. But the timing is nonetheless interesting.

The Show spoke with Gabrielle Blair. She’s a mother of six and a writer whose most recent book is called “ Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way To Think About Abortion.”

Blair talked about what she is seeing in terms of how both men and women are trying to navigate the rules for what they are and are not allowed to do when it comes to having access to reproductive care.

Full interview

GABRIELLE BLAIR: Well, one thing that I’m really happy about that I think is a really excellent sign, is that vasectomies are becoming more common and more accessible. In fact, I’ve heard that just recently in Arizona, Planned Parenthood has started offering vasectomies. And that’s a big deal.

For the entire history of the world, the entire burden of pregnancy prevention work has been put on women’s shoulders. And I’m really trying to shift that conversation — a lot of people are — to try and get men to help out more and vasectomies are ideal.

They're just such a terrific way for men to step up and do their part when they’re done having kids. “Hey, I don’t need to burden my partner with birth control. I can get a vasectomy, a quick 15-minute procedure and take care of it and take and ease her burdens and ease that pressure.”

So I think that’s a really terrific sign. And we’ve also seen a lot of data that more and more men are getting vasectomies since Roe v. Wade was turned over.

MARK BRODIE: Right. Well, and to your point Planned Parenthood Arizona has been offering vasectomies in the southern part of the state, very recently started offering them in the Phoenix area after they found that a lot of people were going south from the Phoenix area to get them. So it seems like in your mind, that’s a positive development, that the procedure is becoming more widely available in a place like Arizona.

BLAIR: I agree. Yes. I think it’s a very positive development that this is what we know about reducing abortion. The two programs that work to like radically reduce abortion — if that’s something you’re interested in doing — is free and accessible birth control options. And that’s every option. Like, the more the more options you make, the more affordable they are, the more accessible they are, the more effective that is.

And the other thing that works is age appropriate sex ed. That’s fact-based, throughout a child’s life. Those are the only two things that are consistently proven to radically reduce the number of abortions in any kind of any community or state or country.

So making vasectomies — a form of birth control — more accessible is working toward that goal.

BRODIE: When we talk about accessibility, I’m curious about the cost, though, because especially for folks without health insurance, the cost, I would imagine, could be a bit of a burden.

BLAIR: Correct. Yeah, it can be. And so I think that Planned Parenthood option, it’s terrific. I’m not surprised to hear that people are going south for that option. And knowing that, vasectomies are something that people want, that there’s a market demand for them, is something that insurance agency should be paying attention to, that the health care industry should be paying attention to.

BRODIE: Given the Arizona Supreme Court ruling that essentially upheld an 1864 near-total ban on abortions in the state, would it be your expectation that the number of men who are looking to get vasectomies in the immediate future may be, in the coming weeks and months, will go up here?

BLAIR: I think, yes, and I would hope so.

BRODIE: I’m wondering if you consider things that are going on in various states, for example, Arizona, Florida recently passed a fairly restrictive ban. Do you see this as maybe an inflection point in terms of changing the way we think about birth control, as you said earlier, to not just have it be the woman’s responsibility, but also have men take some ownership here, too? Is this something that maybe changes the way all of us think about this issue?

BLAIR: That is my dream. I mean, that is my absolute dream. I really want to see men more involved in this part of the conversation. And I know men often don’t feel like they can take part in the abortion conversation. It’s a woman’s body. It’s a woman’s pregnancy. I totally understand that, I get that. But getting them involved in the preventing unwanted pregnancies conversation, which is directly tied into the abortion conversation, is so important.

It really allows men to be able to take part in a conversation without talking about women’s bodies, and instead talking about men’s bodies and what men can do. And men can absolutely prevent unwanted pregnancies. They have really terrific options for doing that.

And since sperm is the thing that causes pregnancy, since men produce sperm, men taking part in this conversation and doing whatever they can to be really careful with their sperm and not cause an unwanted pregnancy makes a lot of sense.

BRODIE: I want to delve into something that you mentioned just a moment ago, which is, age appropriate sex education. Because obviously, if you get a vasectomy, that’s a fairly permanent situation for a man to never be able to have kids. And I’m thinking about maybe men who are in their 20s or early 30s who are not sure, maybe you would like to have kids someday and are not ready to take the step to preclude them from doing so.

What do you think needs to happen in terms of the kind of sex ed and the kinds of other forms of birth control — specifically that men can partake in — that can be used to try to, as you say, prevent unwanted pregnancies?

BLAIR: Well, the main option men have if they’re not interested in a vasectomy is the well known condom. And I think there’s a lot we can do to make condom use more palatable and more socially acceptable. Right now, there are tons of myths about condoms and how horrible they are, or that they make you less manly. And that’s somehow a win if you can talk your partner into not using a condom.

And these are all really, really harmful. And the reality is a lot of these are just myths. Like if you talk to men now that use them regularly, that have practiced, they have figured out their size and material that they prefer and the lubrication they prefer, they really say sex with a condom without a condom is is not different enough that they would ever risk their partners’ health and life and social status and job and everything that gets risked with a pregnancy.

BRODIE: Well, it sounds like what you’re saying is that just as we need sort of a change in thinking to get men, broadly, thinking about being an active participant in birth control and preventing unwanted pregnancies, that vasectomies are part of that, but also, for example, condom use and other things that that men can do to sort of being more responsible is also a big component of all this.

It’s not one versus the other. It’s sort of this broad suite of options that men specifically have to be thinking about.

BLAIR: Yes. Right. And when we’re talking about a suite of options, the other thing that would be amazing — and I think we’re seeing a little bit of this, and I would love to see more — is the demand from men for additional forms of birth control. Is there a pill that men could take? Is there some other process that’s not quite a vasectomy, but something else that somehow stops the sperm from being ejaculated?

I’m not a doctor or a scientist and really don’t know what the options are. But if there is a demand from men for this product, like, “Hey, we want more options,” I think we would see more research dollars go to that.

I mean, every once in a while I see a new report like, “Oh, that sounds like something that is being developed.” But then I haven’t seen anything actually hit the market that’s, you know, having any effect. So I would love to see more of that.

KJZZ's The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ's programming is the audio record. 

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.