If pregnancy prevention is both men’s and women’s concern — and it is — then men should pay for their female partners’ birth control.
It is now generally accepted in our society that childcare is not just a woman’s responsibility. We believe that women should be as entitled to a job and equal wages as men, and reciprocally, men should equally bear the responsibility of childcare. This acceptance is reflected in the recent trend of corporations offering paternity leave to their employees. Paternity leave, which is the male version of maternity leave, exemplifies the societal stride toward acknowledging the difference between woman and mother, as well as the inherent difficulties of parenting that were long taken for granted.
Society’s alleviation of compulsory female responsibility after pregnancy does not seem to extend to the period before pregnancy. That is to say, pregnancy prevention is still all too often considered a woman’s issue. Out of the 10 or so contraceptive methods available on campus, only one — the male condom — is for men. This enormous imbalance has led us to believe that it is natural for women to shoulder more of the burden. Lisa Campo-Engelstein from “Science Progress” specifies what some of these burdens are:
“Men typically do not have to dedicate time and energy to contraceptive care, [or] pay out of pocket for the usually expensive and sometimes frequent (often monthly, or at least four times a year) supply of contraceptives… These contraceptive burdens and sacrifices limit people’s freedoms.”
It is important to recognize that these burdens are in no way “natural.” They sprouted from the cultural bias in medical research that believed children were purely a woman’s responsibility. In this way, the same cultural biases that underpinned female antagonism in the workplace — from which we have moved away — were being amplified through the medical innovations of contraceptives. For instance, the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960 — a female contraceptive — meant that, for the first time in history, those who had children had to make a deliberate decision to do so. While there is no doubt that contraception offered a new level of choice to women, it also meant that only women had the capacity to take effective measures against pregnancy. Medical technology led to the reification of cultural expectations of female responsibility toward children. As a result, the next five decades saw an uneven medical interest in female reproductive systems that led to the enormous imbalance of contraceptive availability today.
The truth of the matter is that the focus of contraceptive technological development on women has had a negative effect aside from giving women a sense of choice: it has engendered financial, physical, social, psychological, and moral anxieties that men have never experienced. Therefore, when a man in a heterosexual relationship offers to pay for their partner’s birth control, it is recognition that the burden of pregnancy prevention is a human issue, not just a woman’s issue.
We must acknowledge the biases of a medical institution that have led to the normalization of female responsibility in pregnancy prevention. And to counter this bias, the least men can do is to offer up their wallets.
Chang Che is a senior from Ann Arbor, MI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.