Friday, August 15, 2014

Contraceptives of the Future!

I know this is kind of old news, but a friend of mine sent me this story and I've been meaning to blog about it for weeks.

Future contraceptives will let women remote-control their fertility

The gist is that the Gates Foundation is backing a biotech company specifically to design and build a contraceptive device straight out of science fiction. Here's the scoop:

MicroCHIPS has been testing the "intelligent drug delivery system" with osteoporosis patients who would otherwise require a daily barrage of injections. Bill-and-Melinda Gates and MIT's Robert Langer, however, believe that the technology could solve the family planning crisis that exists in the world's poorest countries. Reservoirs of levonogestrel, a contraceptive hormone would be kept inside the 1.5cm device, and could be activated and deactivated at the whims of the user with some sort of wireless device. 

So - that's a thing. Here are my thoughts.

1. I love that the Gates Foundation is just quietly on the forefront of every new BC technology lately (so it seems, anyway) - and more often than not, it's not just a birth control/family planning focus but a real bodily autonomy concern - of marginalized bodies - that is their motivation. Like I really am into the Gates Foundation in a big way.

2. Hippie granola concern: having a drug dispenser inside of me for 16 years doesn't really appeal to me, but I guess it's not really me that it would be targeted at. I just feel like we should be moving away from long-term drug-based contraceptives because we don't really know yet all the ways it fucks up our bodies and the environment. It worries me that people are on hormonal birth control from 14 to 44, only stopping to have a couple kids.

3. Security seems like a really big hurdle to get over with this - how are they going to ensure that it can't be screwed with? It's one thing to poke a hole in a condom, or replace a pill with a sugar pill; it's another thing to control the drugs being pumped into someone's bloodstream. This could be a suuuuuuuper easy way to kill someone and get away with it.

4. I would love to see less focus on the fancy technology of birth control and more on simpler ways of making it available and accessible to people and educating folks about their options. I feel like that's the greater need. Like I could see this being great for Western middle-class women, but if you're in a position where birth control is societally condemned and/or not available, this won't really help that much.

Mostly I'm all about concerns #3 and #4. I do applaud the Gates Foundation for being forward-thinking and all, but I feel like they need to back up a few steps and find a more productive way to use all that money. Let's assess the real problem vis-a-vis contraceptives in the world right now: the technology is not the problem. Inequality is the problem - unequal access, a lack of education, and oppressive systems that keep people from determining what they want for their bodies, and being informed enough - and free enough - to ask for that. I am oversimplifying it but there you are.

Thoughts? Is this something you would use (once they figure out the glaring security issue)?

No comments: