Newstalk FM: Exploring Men's Contraceptive Choices in Ireland with Vasectomies - A Radio Interview

In a world where healthcare discussions often focus on women’s reproductive choices, there’s an important conversation that doesn’t get nearly enough attention – men’s vasectomies.

At Gentle Procedures Ireland, we believe in empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health, and that’s why we’re thrilled to share an insightful radio interview that sheds light on this often-overlooked topic.

Recently, one of our clinic doctors engaged in a compelling conversation with a renowned radio presenter on Newstalk FM. This interview delves lightly into the world of men’s vasectomies in Ireland, demystifying myths and providing essential information for those considering this procedure.

In this article, we bring you an exclusive transcript of the interview, allowing you to read every word of this enlightening discussion. Plus, for those who prefer to listen in, we’ve got you covered! We’ve provided a direct link to the interview, ensuring you have access to this valuable resource from wherever you are.

Listen to the full interview on GoLoud. 

Join us as we dive into this vital conversation and equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your reproductive health. Let’s break down barriers and embrace informed choices together!

Presenter: Simon Tierney, our colleague here in Newstalk, is calling for free vasectomies for all, well, for half the population certainly. Simon, so why do you think men should have access to vasectomies free of cost?

Simon: Well, I think people broadly welcome the free contraception scheme, but it is a sexist enterprise, whatever way you look at it because it excludes men.

Now, I don’t mean that in a why aren’t we getting this if women are getting it I mean it in the sense that historically, in this country, there’s a long pattern of putting the responsibility for contraception on women, and that needs to change. If the free contraception scheme was extended to men, then we could close what some people describe as the contraception gap.

Presenter: Could you not just offer free condoms to men?

Simon: Well, there’s a difference between condoms and vasectomies is the type of contraception that they’re providing. Condoms are very prone to human error, particularly if there’s a drink involved, but also, you know, people who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s are looking for a more permanent solution and when it comes to birth control and vasectomy is a very simple solution.

Presenter: Is it not a laborious addition to the contraception scheme?

Simon: I don’t think it would be, and I think it would be a better solution, but again and, you must acknowledge that vasectomies would be the port of call for men generally above a certain age.

Presenter: So there are kind of exceptions to this, but the exceptions are outliers. Mostly it’s men who have had children; the odd case men who have no interest in having children, but mostly kind of 40 plus if you’re getting interested, you need 30s plus.

For the kind of young man listening to this, then I think, hold on, we’re gonna have free contraception for women. We’re gonna have vasectomies for all the lads, like Simon and Kieran out there. But what about me?

Simon: Yeah, well, this is the exact same controversy that we put up with when the contraception screen was rolled out for women because initially it was up to the age of 26, and then the government had to roll back and go, okay, all right, lads, in a year’s time, we’ll extend it to women who are 30.

So you have to start somewhere. And the demand for vasectomies isn’t in late teens and people who are in their 20s because their priorities are completely different.

So you would begin a scheme like this with a restricted age range for sure. But again, it’s not so much the restricted age range. I mean, if it was open to all, you still would have almost nobody accessing it, is my point.

Presenter: There would be some men who would still fall outside the access to free contraception. Wouldn’t there? I mean, men in their 20s say, sorry, I don’t want to get a vasectomy, but I’ve got to pay for contraception.

Simon: Yeah, absolutely. But what I’m saying is that we extend the free contraception scheme to men in general. I’m not suggesting that this would just be vasectomies. Of course, condoms. Free condoms for the young lads, free SNP for the young lads.

Yeah, condoms are on university campuses, but not all guys go to university. So why aren’t they being given? But the whole point of this, for me, it really comes back to entrenched gender norms that we have in this country.

Presenter: And there is, if you’ll forgive me, using the word, Kieran, there is an entrenched patriarchal approach to contraception in this country, and there always has to be. And actually, despite the fact that it was welcomed by most and it’s seen as progressive, the free contraception for women arguably kind of cements that in place, doesn’t it?

Simon: Totally.

Presenter: What it suggests is that you can see how the conversation would play out: What do you mean you’re pregnant? You get free contraception. Why aren’t you on the pill?

Simon: Exactly, and it was presented as this great thing for women, but it could be re-titled, the free get out of jail free lads card.

You know, I mean, think about historically in the 20th century, right? In the 1970s, the contraception train led by people like Nell McCafferty, and that whole movement was led by women, but it was a campaign for condoms and the pill, not just the pill.

And then we look at the Magdalene Laundries and what happened in those institutions. They weren’t filled with young fathers who were equally, if not more, responsible for the unintended pregnancies that this country was unable to apparently deal with.

So men are consistently getting a get-out-of-jail-free card, and this rollout of the free contraception scheme ostensibly for women is once again letting men off the hook.

Presenter: Dr. Emmett Kerin is with us as well from Gentle Procedures Ireland, and Emmet is featured in Simon’s piece in the Irish Times today.

He includes reference to research carried out by Irish Life Health in 2018 that showed 10% of Irish men believe vasectomy involves the surgical removal of the testicles. I mean, you’re going to have to put that issue to bed, I think, first and foremost first.

Dr Kerin: When guys interact with us, they get extensive counseling before they come in with information about everything.

What if this actually involves bringing the hollow tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the surface of the scrotum, and you’re interrupting that hollow tube supply so that you don’t have the sperm coming up in the ejaculate.

And that’s all that’s involved. So it’s very simple, very straightforward procedures, but there are some situations where you wouldn’t operate on people, but I won’t go into the technicalities of that.

In the main, it really is a straightforward procedure. The problem is guys chatting and giving misinformation and telling guys that their drive or their testosterone would no longer be effective.

It’s one thing we have to really educate people about. And there’s a very nice movement called “World Vasectomy Day, which I’m sure you heard about, coming up again this year on the 17th of November, and they have a very good website at worldvasectomyday.org.

And if you’re interested, have a look at that, as it gives a lot of information about vasectomies.

But I think the more people chat, the better.

And there’s a bit of a change in trends from guys who come into me for Vasectomies because they have talked to their friends, talked to their barbers, etc, and they’re more informed compared to 10 years ago when it was very much cloak and daggers and guys wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t say what we’re coming to the clinic to have done.

And, you know, it’s changing slowly. But the more we talk about this, the better.

Presenter: Simon called out that this should be part of a much broader free contraception scheme that men could access. But when it comes to vasectomies, what is the standard cost?

Dr Kerin: It varies around the country. At Gentle Procedures Ireland, it’s 595 euros, and some health insurers will give you a percentage back on that, depending on your policies.

The HSE will provide it free, but budget constraints of the HSE and that’s a real problem when it comes to providing this.

It can also depend on where you live in terms of accessibility. In our Limerick clinic, we can service Limerick and Tipperary, but no further than those catchment areas, for example.

You could have different initiatives like tax rebates or a full rebate to get fully reimbursed for a vasectomy if you went to a specialized clinic for the procedure.

Presenter: What should men consider when choosing a clinic?

Dr Kerin: It’s a surgery at the end of the day, and so you would want to go to a provider who does very high volumes of this surgery and is very comfortable doing it.

So it’s absolutely something you should research, and their safety is the priority. If you’re rolling it out free, then you will get an uptake of people providing service, but obviously, there are standards to doing the vasectomy that people should be aware of when making a decision.

Presenter: So Simon, Emmett, and everybody else thank you.”