Birth Control and the Gates Foundation

Wikipedia Commons
In
my book, Writing the Diaphragm Blues,
I discuss the need for a male version of the birth control pill. I also discuss
how research and technology is available and ready to offer the world a male
version of birth control pill, but unfortunately the world is not all that
interested in it. How can we tell? 
Funding. Just as funding is available by the truckload for new “Viagra”
like medications, there are few trucks loaded and ready with finances to test
new methods of birth control for men. 
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the few organizations substantially
backing this effort. 
But
there is reluctance for this direction in birth control research. Indeed, many
men object to the idea of subjecting their body to hormonal forces that impact
their body negatively. Ironic enough, many of these same men do not seem to
worry about asking their female partners to subject their body to hormonal
drugs, but the line is drawn once the tables are turned. Yet I would argue that
it is not unreasonable to object to putting medications into your body that
would cause you some kind of harm. It is actually a very reasonable objection.
That is why research is now attempting to find a solution to the male birth
control conundrum, which does not include doses of hormones – but this research
is just in its infancy. Regardless, until a solution can be found, birth
control continues to be an issue that impacts women more directly, mostly
remaining a non-issue for men.
In
this past election cycle, the issue of birth control has shown its ugly little
head again (pun intended). It really should be a non-issue, and indeed it has
been a non-issue for centuries. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that the use
of birth control, and the need for birth control, is a rather new and modern debate.
The pill … yes, but birth control has existed for centuries, from the use of
natural herbs, to the intestines of animals that were used as a type of a
condom.  Why is birth control an issue now?  It
is an issue because people feel birth control is a form of population control
,
and a simple abortant.  It is also
an issue because it gives people the ability to control the social roles played
by the different genders in society. However, I have commented on the second
point a great deal in this blog, let me reflect a little on the first point.
As
Melinda Gates suggests below, the argument and the fear regarding the
widespread use of birth control is fear regarding purposeful population
control. This population point it’s not so much of a side issue as Melinda
Gates suggests in her discussion, but Gates is correct when she states that the
bottom line regarding birth control is this: people should have a right to
decide whether or not they are ready to bring a child into this world, and
whether they can care for that child. Birth control is indeed a personal,
egoist concept and “I,” and “my needs” are prominent in
this formula.  However, the utilitarian position, or the “we”
position is also dominate. So yes, population control is at issue as well. This
doesn’t mean I want or that I suggest we need to adopt a policy, such as is
seen in China, limiting how many children we bring into this world. 
However, there is something to be said about famine, a lack of resources, and
our inability to care for children that we bring into this world. It is simple irresponsible
to suggest through rhetoric or practice that humans have the right to bring
children into this world, but we don’t necessarily have to take responsibility
for caring for those children/people throughout their lives. The philosopher
Peter Singer brought up this discussion in ’72 with his well argued article “Famine, Affluence,
and Morality” in Philosophy and Public Affairs (1:1
). Although dated,
I cannot help but feel we should all revisit this discussion again.
Regardless,
I would agree that creating a general rule for the good of the majority is not
always a sound idea – frankly, it can be disastrous. Mandatory use of birth
control is as bad as an idea as is limited the amount of children a couple can
have in a society where the male child is valued over the female –
China has a mess on their hands because of this.
  Although I am a
utilitarian at heart, I’m also a pragmatist. I like to look at situations as
they, individually, occur and then weigh the consequences of potential
reactions to that situation before I act. It’s a process and I am a huge
supporter of focusing on the process rather than a particular, singular,
outcome. People and situations are unique, and they must be approached
uniquely. It is this approach toward birth control that is needed
globally.  
What
does this mean in the end?  It means that we must have open access to
birth control throughout the world. It also means that men must have more open
access to different forms of birth control as well, and they must be encouraged
to make it part of their personal regiment, just as women do. It also means we
must educate the world on the use of birth control, and the responsibility that
comes with the use of birth control. We must teach people about sex, the
consequences of sex, the consequences of sexual assault, and… yes… the
consequences of overpopulation. The problem is that most talking heads are
making this issue in either or issue rather than looking at the consequences,
the wide affecting consequences, of a world without birth control. Enough.

Melinda Gates TED talk on Birth Control.

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