Amid a reported surge in demand for vasectomies prompted by the US supreme court ruling that removed the right to abortion, Planned Parenthood and a physician with a mobile vasectomy clinic will offer 60 free vasectomies over three days in St Louis, Springfield, and Joplin, Missouri, in the first week of November.
Dr. Esgar Guarin plans to take his mobile clinic – a vehicle friends have dubbed the “Nutcracker” – on the road the following week, to offer 40 free vasectomies in towns in Iowa. Guarin also plans to offer discounted vasectomies at his regular clinic in the Des Moines area.
The efforts are part of World Vasectomy Day, which now includes a year-round focus and a host of activities in November.
“It’s a very particular moment in reproductive rights in the United States. And we need to talk about it,” Guarian said, adding that vasectomies are performed far less often than the tubal ligation method of female sterilization, even though they are cheaper, have a shorter recovery, and require only local anesthesia.
Guarin, a medical advisory board member for World Vasectomy Day, helped offer vasectomies last year at Planned Parenthood in St Louis. The effort was so popular the decision was made to expand it to other cities even before the toppling of Roe v Wade, the 1973 supreme court ruling which previously guaranteed abortion rights, sent demand soaring.
In July, Planned Parenthood of the St Louis Region and Southwest Missouri performed 42 vasectomies, compared with 10 in the same month last year. Female sterilizations rose to 18 from three.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that in the aftermath of Dobbs v Jackson, the ruling which overturned Roe, it has heard similar reports from around the country.
Planned Parenthood does not have national sterilization numbers available for this year. However, a spokesperson said that its national web page has seen a 53% increase in vasectomy information searches over the last 100 days.
Data from Google Trends shows that searches about vasectomies briefly spiked after Dobbs leaked the draft majority opinion but reached their highest level after the court released its decision in June.
Dr. Doug Stein, a urological surgeon in the Tampa-St Petersburg area, said patient registrations tripled immediately after Dobbs, with many patients under 30.
“I think everybody is busier since the Dobbs decision,” said Stein, who co-founded World Vasectomy Day.
Dr. Arnold Bullock, a St Louis urologist who does about 35 vasectomies a month, said that before the decision, patients waited about a month for the procedure. The wait is now two to three months.
In Texas, Dr. Koushik Shaw said his Austin Urology Institute saw a spike when Texas enacted a strict abortion law last year and another larger spike after the US supreme court decision. It is now doing 50% more procedures. He said many are for men who saw access to abortion as another option should birth control not work.
“It really pushed family planning to the forefront of people’s thoughts,” he said of the Dobbs decision.
Lawmakers are responding. A California law that will take effect in 2024 will make vasectomies cheaper by allowing patients with private insurance plans to get the procedure at no additional cost.
Dr. Margaret Baum, medical director of Planned Parenthood of the St Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, will partner with Guarin to provide free vasectomies in Missouri.
She reported conversations with patients about permanent sterilization, saying: “I think people are afraid, No1, about abortion, not being accessible, which is a very real and legitimate fear and in reality for a large part of folks in our country. And then I think people are also really afraid that what else might be next.”