July 7, 1997
LINCOLN, Neb. - A proposed birth control pill for men could promote irresponsible sexual activity for both men and women, according to a state religious director.
But birth control advocates see the pill as a chance to give men more responsibility and the couple more options.
The National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va., reported that Joseph Hall, a biochemist at North Carolina State University, has found a way to "blind" sperm so that they don't join with eggs.
The work has moved into testing of the compound on bull and human sperm with results Hall calls "very promising."
Sue Ellen Wall, the former director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Commission on the Status of Women, said the development was "marvelous."
Not all women can take the birth control pill for females because of estrogen or other potential problems, she said. So in combination with other female contraceptive devices, such as the diaphragm, a male pill would help increase odds of a couple avoiding pregnancy.
But Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, asked how the development of artificial contraceptives helps improve sex-related problems and permissive sexual attitudes in society.
"We're promoting a method for engaging in irresponsible sexual activity in an age of rampant irresponsible sexual activity and disease," he said.
Schleppenbach also said the male pill could impact women more negatively.
"It makes them more available to be used by irresponsible men," he said.
At Planned Parenthood of Lincoln, the view is considerably different.
"It frees men and women both," said Linda Hellerich, director of development and public relations for Planned Parenthood of Lincoln. "It gives them options and choices."
She said side effects of Hall's potential pill should be researched thoroughly before any product becomes available, but it would enhance the array of methods to plan families if it moves from research to reality.
Not all women agree. Rosemary Clements, state director of Natural Family Planning of Nebraska, questioned the value of a male pill based on health concerns.
"I think any time you start messing around with nature, you're going to have side effects," she said.
She recommends the ovulation method, based on women checking their cervical mucus to determine their time of fertility each month. "I don't have an ax to grind, but I do consider this method a healthy choice," she said.