Scientists believe they may be getting closer to developing a birth control pill for men - an equivalent to the female contraceptive that was first made available to women in the UK more than 50 years ago.
A study in the US found that the drug, called JQ1, effectively stunted sperm production in male mice, but that there were no adverse impacts on sex drive, and fertility was restored completely after coming off the drug.
The female oral contraceptive, still known ubiquitously as “the pill”, had massive social impacts when it first became available in the sixties, for giving women far greater control over their fertility – but it was also seen by some to encourage promiscuity and a weakening of traditional values.
But what did you think to the possible advent of a male birth control pill? We opened up the discussion in YouGov’s PoliticsLab last week, and asked:
Do you support or oppose the idea of a contraceptive pill for men?
Most of those taking part in the discussion overwhelmingly supported the idea of a male birth control pill.
- The principal reason participants gave for supporting the concept was that birth control is “everyone’s responsibility”.
- Many of you said it was right to shift some of the responsibility to men, thereby potentially lessening some of the woman’s burden.
- Others said, mirroring the social implications of the female pill, that it was a way of empowering men, by enabling them to have more control over whether their actions might result in a child being conceived.
The small proportion of you arguing against the idea of a male contraceptive pill, tended to say that:
- Those who were of this view weren’t necessarily opposed to the idea in theory, but queried whether men would be responsible enough to take the pill.
- And others argued that the primary responsibility had to be with the woman, as she would ultimately be the one who would have to deal with the consequences of necessary birth control steps not being taken.
(Click on the headings below to read panellists’ quotes from either side of the debate)
“Why ever not? Women have been using chemicals to alter their bodies since the ‘60s. This has rightly empowered women over the decades, but society ought to think of fertility as the responsibility of both sexes” Michelle, Birmingham
“This will enable men to take control of their own fertility. … The availability of a male pill would enable a ‘belt and braces’ approach to contraception, which would reduce the chances of accidental pregnancy. This is all to the good because nobody who doesn't want to be should be forced to be a parent, and no child should be unwanted. Also, this development would enable men to be more responsible, and counteract the idea that contraception is something that only women need to think about” ED, Northampton
“I think contraception should be the responsibility of both parties; it is not right that women should take all the risk of any possible health problems relating to the taking of contraceptives. The risk should be shared” Anon
“I feel everything shouldn't be down to the woman. Having a child should be a joint responsibility and not having a child should also be a joint responsibility. For too long everything has hung on the woman, men need to stand up and take some responsibility for their actions or in-actions” Rachael, London
“Men should have the opportunity to take control of this aspect of their sexual health. It also offers couples a further choice of contraceptive methods” Anon
“It is about time that men took responsibility for their fertility. Society can’t keep blaming women for becoming pregnant – you have to have the man to be able to conceive in the first place! So if the man is more responsible for his fertility then there should be less unwanted babies brought into an already over populated world” Anon
“It's not men who get pregnant, so they don't have such a life-changing consequence as motivation to remember to take the pill. They might forget and then lie and say they've taken it so they can still have sex” C Smith, Devon
“For men in a long-term relationship it might be good to make things better for your other half. But I don't think it helps for younger single people as most young lads would say ‘yea, course I'm on the pill’. The problem is that at the end of it all, the woman or the girl will be the one left with a pregnancy to deal with, not the lad” Dave H, Cambs
“Whilst I think the idea is basically good, as a father I could not tell my daughters to believe any man who said he was on the pill. I believe that too many men are opportunists who would lie if they thought they could get away with it” Alex B, Keighley
“There is no way I would rely on a man to take a tablet that would stop me from getting pregnant. No relationship would withstand the betrayal of the effects of forgetting. At least if I forget to take a pill I only have myself to blame. I certainly wouldn't rely on my husband or partner to take the care for me” Anon
“Men will always forget to take it!” Anon
“Men can't get pregnant. Therefore, they are at liberty to walk away from a problem. Most responsible men don't, and for that we're grateful. However, until men are at risk of getting pregnant, it is unlikely that the greater majority of men would think about protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancy” Claire, Oxfordshire
Do you support or oppose the idea of a male birth control pill?
And what, if any, do you think social impacts of a male contraceptive pill would be?