Sign up to stay connected
Get the top stories of the day around the DMV.
As a child born in the ’60s, by the time I had reached adulthood and began to enthusiastically explore my sexuality, the landmark case of Roe v. Wade had already become the law of the land.
For me as a young Black man, that meant that when considering birth control, I had several options from which to choose. I could take the sister’s word that she was on the pill, I could use a condom or I could throw caution to the wind and hope that my fast-swimming buddies would not reach home plate.
As a rule, discussions about having an abortion weren’t at the top of the list and were, for the most part, private affairs between the two parties to whom it mattered the most. But we knew that folks were kicking it frequently and many weren’t being careful with birth control. You could tell because at the health clinic at the University of Michigan where I matriculated and received my undergraduate degree, the lines were routinely long.
Of course, patients could have been seeing a physician because of a suspected STD. And while herpes became a newfound concern beginning in the early 70s, HIV/AIDS had not reached epidemic proportions – at least not among those who were strictly heterosexual.
We were in our 20s in those days and most of my friends, male and female, while we certainly didn’t want to become parents yet and while we realized the ramifications of bringing a child into the world when we could barely take care of ourselves, most people I knew had had to weigh the option of having an abortion at least once or twice.
I don’t know how I would adjust my behavior if I were just entering college today and quite frankly, I’m glad my days of potentially becoming the parent of a newborn are well behind me. But for today’s youth, in the wake of the bombshell U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, the landscape has definitely changed.
Doctors say that they’re witnessing a stampede of men hurrying to get vasectomies. And while I would not refute their observations, given my limited view of the world, I would hazard to say that the majority of their patients are not Black men.
Okay. So, I’m probably going to get into some trouble now. But remember, this is “the world according to Dominic.”
Statistics do bear out that Black men are less likely than other men and people with testes to seek out permanent options for birth control, such as a vasectomy. However, the reasons are not as cut and dry. Often, misinformation about the procedure and the impact of a vasectomy causes many Black men to eliminate it from consideration.
Dr. Alex Shteynshlyuger, director of urology at New York Urology Specialists, in a New York Post report, said his Manhattan practice has been deluged with vasectomy requests for roughly a month after a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked in early May.
“I think that raised awareness about vasectomies as one of the options for permanent contraception and that led a lot of men and couples to seek them,” Shteynshlyuger recently told The Post. “There’s a lot of interest.”
Dr. Doug Stein, a Florida urologist known as the “Vasectomy King,” told the Washington Post that he’s gotten up to 18 requests daily – a significant increase from the typical four or five.
Still, many myths prevail including the belief that the procedure is easily reversible or that it leads to a greater possibility for prostate cancer among Black men.
Certainly, the decision should be one made with great care and should not be made because it’s the trend of the day. However, another reason for their reluctance which Black and Latino men often cite is the fear that having a vasectomy will lead to a loss in their manhood.
I can understand that concern because during my transition from boyhood to manhood, becoming a father stood as one of the greatest examples of truly being a man. It was, in many ways, a badge of honor. Of course, some brothers took it to the extreme by making babies far too often. But that’s another story.
Family planning at its core should involve both parents or both parties and they should collectively decide on the best course of action. Further, the choice should not, as it generally did back in the days of my youth, solely lie on women.
Thus, having a vasectomy does stand as a viable option. It simply isn’t one that I would have chosen back in the day or now.
Nonetheless, I’m keeping up with the news and the latest medical findings because as the father of two young adults and the grandfather of two boys, they will undoubtedly need some sage advice in the future. And I want to help them make the choice – an informed decision – that’s best for them.