A groundbreaking study was published in JCEM last week stating that the elusive hormonal contraceptive for males has, at last, been achieved. You can read the full study here: http://press.endocrine.org/doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2016-2141
In an Endocrine Society press release, one paragraph launched several acerbic articles by journalists who cover women’s issues:
“Researchers stopped enrolling new participants in the study in 2011 due to the rate of adverse events, particularly depression and other mood disorders, reported by the participants. The men reported side effects including injection site pain, muscle pain, increased libido and acne. Twenty men dropped out of the study due to side effects.”
Cosmopolitan essentially called the study drop-outs “weenies”:
See also: http://www.someecards.com/life/health/men-male-birth-control-study-science-side-effects/ and: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/men-abandon-groundbreaking-study-on-male-birth-control-citing-mood-changes
From a research ethics perspective, halting a trial early due to unacceptable side-effects is an ethically accepted, and expected practice, which is spelled out in The Belmont Report (See: http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/belmont-report/).
But there is also the issue of distributive justice, whereby the burdens and benefits of research ought to be evenly distributed. In other words, justice demands that women should not solely bear the burdens of risk surrounding hormonal contraception. It is “karmic” that women have little sympathy for the male “drop-outs” in the study. As one Op/Ed points out: “When some women resisted taking The Pill [when it was first introduced in 1960], citing health risks and side effects, Playboy dismissed the women as neurotic prudes who refused to ‘take responsibility’ for contraception.”
Unfortunately, since it is women who bear the consequences of no contraception, they have greater motivation for risk, leading to a “biology is destiny” ethics problem. The term “birth control” – a term that highlights autonomy over reproduction, was originally coined by Margaret Sanger, who died 50 years ago this year (http://www.biography.com/people/margaret-sanger-9471186#synopsis). Sanger made the statement: “No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”
Thus, there are gender differences that motivate reproductive autonomy, as males are not biologically burdened with the consequences unless they choose to be. Male hormonal contraception could also be an appealing option for parents/guardians raising developmentally delayed males, or those who may be on the autism spectrum who are not competent to understand the consequences of their behaviors.
And finally, as my blog title suggests, this election has forced us to confront male predatory behavior, ranging from the Anthony Weiner case (which now threatens to upend the election) to Trump himself, whose leaked video confirmed his predatory behaviors. Convicted male predators in some countries are sentenced to chemical castration, which involves Lupron and estrogen, and which has been considered unethical by Amnesty International (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/10/indonesia-halt-chemical-castration/). With a relatively safe method of at least protection from unwanted pregnancy, could male hormonal contraception become an ethically acceptable regimen for males with established sexually predatory behaviors, presuming they are medical candidates?