After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, opening the door for states to restrict abortion access, it was widely reported that men were getting more vasectomies. Google searches for vasectomies spiked, and one doctor even told KSHB that he experienced a 900% increase in vasectomy consults in the days following the decision. It became immediately clear that when the federal government failed to protect women and trans folks from unwanted pregnancy, at least some cisgender men were stepping up to do so themselves.
But a recent study finds that vasectomies have been trending upward since before that fateful decision. In 2014, 0.427% of all privately insured male patients in the U.S. aged 18 to 64 got vasectomies, according to commercial health insurance claims data; in 2021, 0.537% got a vasectomy.
Sure, the latter number is still a small percentage — but it is a 26% relative increase compared to 2014. And although very few total men are getting vasectomies — just 4% report having gotten one — a 26% increase in the number of men getting them over a seven-year period is nothing to balk at. That’s especially true if the Roe v. Wade reversal boosted those numbers even higher. (Once 2022 commercial insurance data is available, the study authors plan to examine those numbers as well.)
Over the study period, men with two or more children and those with a partner under age 35 were the groups that saw the biggest absolute increases of men getting a vasectomy — meaning more total men decided to get the snip. But the groups with the biggest relative increases were men with no children, men with a partner over the age of 35, single men, and young men aged 18 to 24. According to a press release for the study, this “speaks to the increasing popularity of the procedure among men who previously may not have opted for permanent contraception.”
But why were more men getting vasectomies even before the Supreme Court decision? Dr. Stanton Honig, division chief for reproductive and sexual medicine at Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, told HealthDay, “this recent study points to the fact that men are taking more of a role in reproductive health and family planning, especially when they are finished having children.”
Another possibility is that men were anticipating restrictions to abortion access even before Roe v. Wade was overturned. After all, six Republican-appointed judges have been a part of the nine-person Supreme Court since October 2020.
A vasectomy — which cuts or blocks the vasa deferentia, the tubes within the testicles that transport sperm — is relatively easy to recover from; most people only need to avoid strenuous exercise and sex for a week. Side effects such as infection, bruising, and long-term pain are rare. Reversals are possible if you later decide you want more children, and 90% to 95% of reversals are effective, according to Stanford Medicine.
And, importantly, if you have a long-term partner, vasectomies are safer, easier, and about half as costly as sterilization procedures for people who can get pregnant. So if you and your partner are done having kids but could still potentially produce them, it may be time to consider this family planning tool — especially if you live in a state where abortion is restricted.