After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that protected abortion rights, medical professionals say they have seen a drastic increase in vasectomies.
Vasectomies offer a form of permanent birth control for men, and roughly 500,000 are performed every year in the United States.
“There was an increase of basically 100% in the number of vasectomies from the moment Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Dr. Esgar Guarin, the co-founder of SimpleVas Medical Clinic, told Yahoo News.
Guarin, a doctor in Des Moines, Iowa, who trained in maternal, child and reproductive health, says interest from male patients in learning more about the procedure increased after the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned Roe.
“Within only 48 hours, we signed up 50% of the patients that we normally sign up in a month, just immediately after June 24, and that trend continued,” he said.
In November, a Planned Parenthood office in St. Louis also noted a spike in vasectomies in an interview with Live Action. “Since the Dobbs decision, we have seen an increasing number of male-bodied people coming and requesting this service [vasectomies],” Dr. Margaret Baum of Planned Parenthood said. “We performed 142 vasectomies in 2021. Already this year, we’ve done close to 200 in 2022.”
But doctors say this isn't the only major event that has pushed men to seek a permanent form of contraception.
“During the Great Recession, there was a marked increase in requests for vasectomies, because people felt that the economy was such that they couldn't afford to have children,” Marc Goldstein, professor of reproductive medicine and urology at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Yahoo News.
Between 2007 and 2009, an estimated 150,000 to 180,000 additional men received a vasectomy, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
“And we're seeing exactly the same thing happening now,” Goldstein said. “We've seen a doubling or tripling overall in the number of vasectomies, and they marked a drop in the number of reversals since Roe v. Wade.”
Doctors note a slight increase in the number of patients younger than 30 with no children seeking a vasectomy, with the largest increase among in men in their mid- to late 30s.
“We saw a bump up of about 20% to 25% from 35- to 37-year-old men who had decided not to have any children in years prior, but had done nothing about it, and were purely relying on the partner for their contraception,” Guarin said.
As abortion rights are restricted nationwide, experts say vasectomies do not provide a replacement for access to abortion.
“Contraception is an integral part of ensuring reproductive justice, freedom and autonomy, but it always has to exist with access to other pregnancy outcomes, including access to abortion,” Katrina Kimport, professor of reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, told Yahoo News.
Even though medical professionals say vasectomies are cheaper, safer and faster, more women get their tubes tied. Vasectomies are an outpatient procedure with a low risk of complications and take less than an hour to complete.
“Tubal ligation and other procedures for women are options, but they usually have a higher risk of complications and may cost more,” Dr. Nicholas Toepfer, a UCHealth urologist, said in a UCHealth article.
“There has never been a single death from a vasectomy ever. In tubal ligation every single year in this country alone, 25 to 30 women die from getting a tubal ligation, because it requires a general anesthetic,” Goldstein said.
Since vasectomies have rarely been the popular choice, women have often carried the burden of preventing pregnancies.
“Women and people who can get pregnant are largely expected to prevent pregnancy on their own for 30 years or more. And there's not enough public recognition for how hard that is,” Krystale Littlejohn, associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, told Yahoo News. “Responsibility for preventing pregnancy shouldn't be a stopgap effort for men, and it shouldn't be something that is done periodically. It is a long-term commitment to their partners and to themselves.”
Doctors suggest that men could step up more often. “It's sad to see that it took restricting the rights of an individual to choose about her own body for the counterparts to say, 'You know what, I probably should be doing something, because I cannot rely on the very last option, because it's no longer available,'” Guarin said.