Having Kids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to replacing current subjective and parent-focused family planning models with the objective, human rights-based and child-focused Fair Start model. Sensible family planning is among the best ways to promote quality of life for present and future generations, protect the environment, and reduce overcrowding as a hedge against coming pandemics. We are encouraging Congress and the key federal agency to act.
We are writing the two key members of the House and Senate, as well as the head of the National Institutes of Health, to make this happen.
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Given the current pressures the COVID-19 virus pandemic is placing upon our environment, our institutions, and on families everywhere, particularly the most marginalized among us, and given the previously unsustainable pressures these systems and groups were already facing, we are urging Congress and the urge the Subcommittee on Health to prioritize, reallocate, and increase funding towards more sensible family planning tools like long-acting reversible contraceptives (“LARCs”) for men, as well as use its power to facilitate expedited clinical trials of these products. As no such widespread male contraception is currently available for couples, this product represents an opportunity for a remarkable return on investment in the form of more equitably sized family units and all the benefits that flow from them.
There are multiple reasons to pursue this strategy:
- US Environmental Policy Requires Sensible Family Planning: The grandfather of US environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) declared that the US government has a “continuing responsibility” to act as trustee over the environment for future generations and it outlines a federal environmental policy to “use all practicable means and measures… to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony…” To that end, it requires government bodies to take a hard look at “population growth” and its effects on environmental health. Facilitating the production of LARCs is consistent with this policy.
- Current Population Trends Require Male Contraception: The world’s current population is increasing at the rate of 80 million persons a year and global population is projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050. Choosing smaller families is the most effective way to reduce human impact on the planet and animals. For example, having one less child is nearly 20 times more significant than the adoption of other environmental practices, like driving a hybrid or changing one’s diet. Accordingly, the long term environmental benefits achieved by even only a few couples employing LARCs can be enormous.
- Institutions Implicitly Recognize The Need To Manage Family Sizes and Population: The CDC acknowledges that “unintended pregnancy carries significant health and economic consequences and disproportionately affects poor women and women of color.” Moreover, the WHO has recognized that overcrowding exacerbates epidemics and is perhaps the most fundamental threat to public health. Human overpopulation is a key factor in the spread of a variety of diseases, and this now includes novel coronavirus. The WHO has further stated that supporting family planning services is a “life-saving” strategy that policymakers should undertake during the current crisis. LARCs help manage these risks.
- Gender Equality Requires More Focus On Male Contraception: To date, unfounded ideology has been the primary inhibition to male contraception. In the few instances when pharmaceutical companies have tried to create products for men similar to “the pill,” progress has often been halted by side effects that women have experienced for decades, such as depression, acne, increased libido, and shrinking testicles or ovaries. Society apparently will not tolerate these effects in men, but for women they are expected. Moreover, rather than create reliable hormone-driven male contraceptives akin to what’s available to women, the market seemingly focuses on the opposite – pouring its resources into products such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. It is Congress’s duty to help correct these market imbalances by facilitating the production of LARCs, not only because it makes pragmatic sense given the environmental and quality of life costs, but also for gender equality.
Having Kids previously raised these concerns to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Spring 2019, when it requested additional funding for LARCs. Since that letter there has been no meaningful movement despite the fact that the need for such family planning tools has only been exacerbated over that time. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 is but a symptom of the fact that we have too many unmanaged families living in too close proximity to one another.
For these reasons, we are encouraging Congress and the NIH to prioritize funding for research and development of male LARCs to offset the market’s failure to produce these drugs, as well as to expedite their clinical trials. For example, NIH currently only spends $20 to $24 million on contraceptive research, which is a pittance compared to its current $41.7 billion annual budget for medical research. Taking action to create widely available and easily accessible male LARCs would ensure a higher quality of life for future families, it would protect the environment, and it would safeguard future generations from overcrowding, thus substantially reducing the threat, transmission and impact of pandemics like COVID-19.