Last year, 100 physicians in 26 countries performed nearly 100 vasectomies on Oct. 18. The occasion? The first-ever World Vasectomy Day, an idea dreamed up by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack and urologist Doug Stein to bring more attention to – and to dispel myths around – this permanent form of birth control.
And this year, Stack and Stein are at it again, aiming for 250 doctors in 30 countries to carry out 1,500 vasectomies on Nov. 7 for the second World Vasectomy Day. This year’s World Vasectomy Day will be headquartered at Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando’s new health center in Kissimmee, Fla., where Stein will be performing and live-streaming free vasectomies for 25 men. In addition to broadcasting Stein’s “vasectomy-athon,” the live webcast will feature feeds from other participating doctors and interviews with family-planning leaders.
Stack and Stein came up with the idea of World Vasectomy Day when the Emmy Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker was shooting a documentary about global population and met and traveled with Stein, the world’s leading provider of vasectomies. The pair realized that a film could only do so much to highlight vasectomies, so they hatched a plan for a global day dedicated to the important family-planning procedure.
What’s so unique about World Vasectomy Day, compared to other family-planning campaigns, is its focus on men.
“So many resources over the years have supported women in family planning – as they should have,” Stack told 3p. “But so few resources have gone towards men because we’ve written off men as a bad investment. But we realize, if you don’t get men to be part of the conversation about family planning, then you’re only going to get so far.”
World Vasectomy Day challenges men to get involved with family planning with quasi-macho language: “Stand up and be a man” and get a vasectomy, and “be a hero to your family.” According to Stack, this male-centered approach to family planning has resonated with the public and has earned the campaign support from family-planning groups that traditionally cater to women – like International Planned Parenthood Federation – Western Hemisphere Region and Marie Stopes International.
In addition to educating men on the basics of vasectomy procedures, World Vasectomy Day aims to address some of the psychological barriers that prevent many men from going through with this simple procedure. Some men fear that a vasectomy will compromise their capacity to enjoy sex or give sexual pleasure, Stack said; others feel anxious about the symbolic loss of their virility.
Stack, who struggled with his own decision to undergo the procedure, said that he and many others find that rather than feeling depleted after a vasectomy, they feel liberated – finally free from the lifelong concern that they caused an unplanned pregnancy.
And more than that, these men feel like they did something for their partner and families, Stack said.
“The reality is that women have traditionally had to be responsible for birth control, so it feels good [for men] to say, ‘I’ll take this one on. This one is on me,’” Stack said.
Women have permanent birth-control options like tubal litigations, Stack said, but they are much more invasive than the simple vasectomy procedure. Even in the U.S., there are more tubal litigations performed on women than there are vasectomies, he said.
“Now it’s time for men to step up and take the moral responsibility for family planning,” he said.
Family planning has always been a women’s rights and women’s issue, as well as an environmental one. Over 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, Stack said, and clearly, this statistic has environmental impacts.
Stack recognizes that vasectomies aren’t for everyone, he said; an ideal candidate for the procedure would be a man who has decided not to have children or one whose family is complete. But the point of World Vasectomy Day isn’t just to promote this form of birth control or the number of procedures performed on Nov. 7.
“It’s really less about the number of vasectomies and more about the quality of the conversations we help inspire,” he said. “We hope that World Vasectomy Day kickstarts a lot of conversations about family planning.”
Image credit: World Vasectomy Day
Passionate about both writing and sustainability, Alexis Petru is freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose work has appeared on Earth911, Huffington Post and Patch.com. Prior to working as a writer, she coordinated environmental programs for Bay Area cities and counties. Connect with Alexis on Twitter at @alexispetru