Vasectomies for Earth Day!

| April 25, 2021 | Leave a Comment

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This Earth Day, 2021,  in perhaps the least expected but most fitting of places for a big launch event–the middle of Iowa (and the middle of the US), a lone vasectomy provider will set out with the first mobile vasectomy clinic to prove conscientious and kind men, whose families are complete, will put their balls on the line for Mother Earth. 

In collaboration with World Vasectomy Day, Dr. Esgar Guarin, expert vasectomy physician of SimpleVas Clinic will be launching the first mobile vasectomy clinic in the US in honor of Earth Day 2021. Dr. Guarin will be hosting a live and virtual press conference in Des Moines on April 20 before setting off to Ames, Iowa the 24th for the maiden voyage of his new mobile clinic.

 As the planet approaches 8 billion people, more human beings are walking the earth today than in our entire history. The first World Vasectomy Day, celebrated in 2013,  was to inspire 100 doctors to do 1,000 vasectomies in 10 countries in 24 hours. The tagline that first year was “Balls on the line for Mother Earth” and the motivation was very much a concern for the wellbeing of the planet. 

Eight years ago, this message was not quite the perfect ongoing motivation for men to step up, and World Vasectomy Day found that men were more inspired to get vasectomies as an act of love for their partners and families, so the tagline changed and remains “An Act of Love”. 

This year, however, vasectomies are trending among younger men who are choosing no family or smaller families in order to reduce the global catastrophe facing us all. They are putting their “balls on the line for Mother Earth” in record numbers. It seems clear that climate-change awareness is having an impact on family planning, and that men are being included in the conversation.

Based on a recent study, The Climate Mitigation Gap*, the most powerful thing one can do as an individual in a developed country to reduce global warming is to have fewer children. This study finds that in terms of carbon footprint, choosing to have one fewer child is more effective than recycling, living car-free, or eating a 100% plant-based diet. *Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 074024

More significantly, a US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives.

Considering that in the US we still have a 40% accidental/unintended/unwanted pregnancy rate, when discussing high-impact ways to battle climate change, the societal cost of this statistic should move the topic to the top of the list. It’s not about population control, but conscious choice to have wanted children, and then acting in a conscious and responsible manner to prevent unintended pregnancy when one’s family is complete. 

From the co-founder of World Vasectomy Day, Jonathan Stack: ”Certainly, every child deserves to be received with love, and treated to all of the benefits and rights that should come with being alive. Yet, the truth is every single major social problem we face is made more difficult to resolve with a growing population.  For us to flourish as a species and for the biosphere to help support our existence, we don’t need another billion people, we need to take better care of those who are already here.”

Going forward, World Vasectomy Day and SimpleVas will be working to further educate and make vasectomy accessible to families in Iowa, where tubal ligation is still the most common form of permanent contraception, and where the rate of unintended pregnancy is about 43%. 

In bringing the World Vasectomy Day campaign to countries on different continents, including Australia, the US, Kenya, Indonesia, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico and Rwanda, WVD proved that a growing number of men want to be part of family planning, want to limit their family size and believe it is in the interest of their own well being to step up. These men  recognize that family planning is not only about family size and family well-being, but also a gateway towards kinder communities and more hopeful countries.  World Vasectomy Day  focuses on organizing and energizing those who are ready to join a movement that celebrates responsible men.

WVD asks men whose families are complete to step up and share the burden with women.  Among many other activities, World Vasectomy Day makes short films to demystify the procedure and educate the public about the simplicity of vasectomy, its low cost and its implicit kindness. 

Every year, WVD inspires more doctors in more countries. Last year, in spite of the pandemic,  over 1,000 participating providers in 30+ countries did more than 12,000 vasectomies as part of the now week-long event. To increase the quality of vasectomies worldwide, WVD is developing training programs that can help governments, institutions, and even individual providers with the skills they need to deliver the highest quality vasectomies and run sustainable programs.  

There are countries like New Zealand, Canada and Bhutan where more than 20% of men choose vasectomies. Unfortunately, the majority of countries have vasectomy rates between 1% and 3%.  Meanwhile, over 300 million women on the planet have had tubal ligations, which is six times the rate of vasectomies worldwide. This is true despite tubal ligation being much more invasive, more expensive and more painful. It has a higher rate of failure over time, and a failed tubal ligation can result in ectopic pregnancies, a leading cause of maternal mortality, while failure in a vasectomy results in a normal pregnancy. 

Vasectomy is an excellent choice for families that are complete. It’s a simple procedure with a very low rate of failure, nearly painless, with a quick recuperation period, a low rate of ongoing side effects, and is highly cost-effective. It can be done by trained family doctors, OB/GYNs, urologists and general surgeons as a 15-minute outpatient service. 

Studies show that smaller family size is one of the leading factors in overcoming poverty, and that large families create challenges for countries trying to develop self-sustaining economies. So why is vasectomy such a low priority for family planning globally? 

The reason is partially that there are still around 200 million women whose ongoing needs for contraception have not yet been met by the global community, and that the costs and logistics for delivering contraceptive modalities inhibit efficiency. Also, because vasectomy does not create any opportunity for the sale of pharmaceuticals or medical devices (other than condoms for a few months after the procedure), it’s less favored by the companies that profit from such sales. The focus on providing women with contraception has had a secondary effect of excluding men from the family when it comes to family planning. 

Knowing that the single most effective thing we can do as individuals to avert climate catastrophe is to have one fewer child, it’s time for society to regroup around this fact. We must change what we teach our adolescents and young adults, change how we approach family planning so that men are included in the conversation, create educational campaigns so that vasectomy is understood and easily accessed worldwide, and invest in research to perfect easily reversed temporary vasectomies as a less permanent family planning option for sexually active boys. 

The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.