According to a recent NPR story, urologists experience an uptick in vasectomy appointments in March. Many clinics even run ads about how you can get a vasectomy, and then come home with doctor’s orders to kick back with your feet up and watch non-stop basketball.
The guy I used to carpool with a few years ago actually pulled this exact move. He told me he’d be taking a couple weeks off in March for a procedure and wouldn’t need a ride. He smiled at me and winked.
“Why are you winking?” I asked.
“Because it’ll be March Madness,” he said.
Then he laid out his brilliant plan to get a vasectomy and then hang out and watch basketball for a couple weeks.
At the time, I shrugged. “Good for you,” I said.
I actually work for a Division I athletics program, only I’m on the academic side. I’m the guy who tells all the student athletes to do their homework. I’m pretty popular. However, I’m not all that into sports, and I think that’s the reason I don’t understand why it takes something like a basketball tournament for men to finally stop dragging their feet and get a vasectomy.
I had one last year, and I will admit it was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as my wife’s three C-sections. I witnessed all of them, and they were terrifying. They literally pulled a person out of an incision in my wife. In contrast, I had two incisions, each the size of a nickel.
With my vasectomy, I was done in less than an hour. And while I didn’t go home and watch basketball, I did go home and watch Netflix with a bag of ice on my junk. One week in, I was up and back to work. It took my wife a good month to recover from her procedures, and after witnessing all of that, it didn’t feel right to ask her to be cut open again just so I didn’t have to worry about someone slightly messing with my man parts.
However, there is a little more going on when it comes to vasectomies. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover contraceptives without charging out-of-pocket costs. Vasectomy wasn’t included in the rule. The procedure costs about $500, but some doctor’s charge up to $1,000.
The real pinch point here is that the ACA views contraception as a women’s health issue, not a men’s health issue. Until recently, there was group of doctors trying to change this. A petition with over 12,000 signatures was signed. But now, under the Trump administration, politicians want to get rid of the contraception mandate all together.
Ultimately, as odd as it may sound, this has led to radio stations giving away free vasectomies during March Madness as a promotion. Essentially, three guys go on the radio and argue as to why they deserve a vasectomy more. The winner winds up with a free vasectomy along with a play-by-play radio broadcast of the procedure.
If you are a woman reading this, and you think it all sounds bonkers, don’t worry. I’m with you. It’s just odd. I suppose I was lucky enough to have an insurance plan that covered my vasectomy, so the cost wasn’t a huge issue. I didn’t have to go on the radio, thank god.
Although, I will admit, like most men, I dragged my feet to get the procedure done. I didn’t necessarily do this out of spite or anything. It’s just not something I was looking forward to. Perhaps that makes me sound like all the other guys. Perhaps I am, and for that I’d like to publicly apologize to my wife.
According to the CDC, about 5% of women rely on their partner’s vasectomy for contraception. In contrast, 20% of women have had a sterilization procedure, even though women’s surgery is more invasive and more expensive. However, I can understand why some families might make the decision to have the woman undergo sterilization if it’s covered by insurance and a vasectomy is not. As a father of three children, I know how important insurance coverage and deductibles can be when making family decisions.
I suppose what this all boils down to is that contraception and family planning can get complicated. It’s a mix of emotions and cost, and ultimately you have to weigh several factors to make the best decision for your family.
But as a guy, I’d like to end with this a message to other men. If you are like me, and getting the procedure done isn’t that big of a financial consideration, I want you to think about the fact that women have been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to babies and contraception for a long, long time. They are the ones asked to take a pill or get a shot or have something shoved up inside them, all of it messing with their hormones and sometimes having awful side affects. They are the ones who have grown and pushed babies out of their bodies, and then they are expected to recover and care for the child, or recover and head back to work to help support the child.
Not that any of this is your fault. It isn’t. But what I want you to do is really look at all that. To take it in. Because honestly, if March Madness is the tipping point for you to get a vasectomy, and all the sacrifices the mother of your children has made over the years isn’t, then you might want to reflect on your values and motivations instead of staring at the TV screen.