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With Roe overturned, vasectomies are on the rise in U.S. Is that happening in Idaho?

July 14, 2022 Updated Fri., July 15, 2022 at 7:08 p.m.

By Catherine Odom Idaho Statesman

Tim Guill, a joint lecturer at Boise State, underwent his first vasectomy at age 33. He was a single father to a young son and said he was confident he did not want more children.

At 36, though, he had his vasectomy reversed.

Now, at 42, he is undergoing the procedure one more time.

“Seeing the writing on the wall with things and potentially having contraception in danger in the future, I would rather I proactively take care of it on my end,” Guill said. “It’s much less invasive for me than the counterpart for women.”

Guill said he scheduled an appointment with his primary care physician to discuss getting a vasectomy as soon as the Supreme Court opinion leaked in May that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, canceling abortion rights for women across the country. Guill became part of a trend, as men across the country began seeking vasectomies in larger numbers than before.

In fact, following the official June Supreme Court abortion ruling in a Mississippi case, both men and women have sought contraception – from vasectomies and tubal ligations to birth control implants, pills and IUDs – in greater numbers around the U.S. And it’s no different in Idaho.

Increase in vasectomies following Roe reversal

Most abortions will be illegal in Idaho when a trigger law passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature takes effect, although Planned Parenthood has sued in the Idaho Supreme Court to try to halt its implementation. The trigger law has led to more than just local protests – it has led many people to be proactive about reproductive health.

“There’s been chatter nationally about the increased interest in vasectomies,” Dr. John Greer, of the Idaho Urologic Institute, told the Idaho Statesman. “It’s an interesting effect, and we’re definitely seeing that here in Boise.”

Greer, who will perform Guill’s vasectomy, specializes in men’s reproductive medicine at Idaho Urologic, and he said there’s been a big spike in demand for vasectomy consultations in recent weeks.

Last year, in the first five days of July, Greer said the clinic received around 10 calls from men seeking consultations. This year, it received 67.

David Bishop, the CEO of IUI, said the clinic has opened more appointments for vasectomies and consultations to deal with the demand.

“We don’t know if this is kind of a blip early on with Roe v. Wade, or if we’re going to see it more long-term,” Bishop said.

Women seek birth control options in wake of Dobbs decision

At Women’s Health Associates in Boise, practice administrator Scott Tucker said there has been an increase in inquiries about all kinds of contraception, including sterilization.

Tucker said that the Monday after the Supreme Court’s ruling, the clinic received an “influx of calls” from people inquiring about “contraception or sterilization.”

Women’s Health Associates provides a wide range of birth control options, including IUDs, pills, implants, vaginal rings and birth control shots. The clinic also performs tubal ligations, or female sterilization procedures in which the fallopian tubes are tied off, preventing the travel of an egg from an ovary to the uterus.

Women’s Health offers abortions only when medically necessary, such as in the case of fetal abnormalities or when the mother’s life is at risk. But Tucker said the clinic supports any woman’s choice and will help individuals find an abortion provider.

Tucker said he is concerned about the scope of the ban. He recalled one patient whose fetal anatomy scan showed a fetus with “basically no face.”

“There was no way that fetus was going to survive outside the womb, and those types of situations aren’t excluded in the trigger law,” Tucker said. “That patient specifically, we wouldn’t have been able to treat with the trigger law, and we would have to send them out of state.”

The Idaho law provides exceptions if a mother’s health is in peril, or in cases of rape or incest – provided the crime has been reported to authorities.

Male and female sterilization options carry risks, benefits

While vasectomies can be reversed in many cases, Greer – one of the few Idaho doctors who will perform them – cautioned that it’s not guaranteed. He said they are effective about 90% of the time.

“We try to be sure to counsel patients appropriately that vasectomy reversal is possible, but success isn’t 100%,” Greer said. “We don’t want to mislead patients in any way.”

Guill’s was successful, but he said he is happy to be getting a vasectomy again – for both him and his partner.

“I’m glad that I’m doing something proactively for both of us,” Guill said. “We can keep what we want to do in life and our pathway forward safer, especially given the current circumstances.”

The initial procedure, Guill said, was relatively painless. He said it took 20 minutes and required only local anesthesia. The reversal lasted a few hours and required general anesthesia.

Unlike a vasectomy, a tubal ligation is virtually irreversible, Tucker said.

Both procedures offer long-term or permanent contraceptive benefits. Greer said another benefit to sterilization for women is it allows them to stop taking hormonal birth control.

Not all providers offer complete family planning services

For individuals seeking vasectomies, tubal ligations or other forms of birth control, using a Catholic health system can limit your options or simply lead to referrals.

Boise’s Saint Alphonsus refers patients seeking vasectomies to Idaho Urologic, its contracted partner for such procedures, according to Mark Snider, the communications director for Saint Alphonsus.

Catholic hospitals follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which bars providers from administering many forms of contraception. They perform abortions only in the case of a severe threat to a woman’s life, even in states where abortion remains legal.

St. Luke’s Health System has its roots in the Episcopal Diocese.

Considering the current uncertainty surrounding reproductive health, Tucker said the most important thing is for individuals to talk to their health care providers.

“We really want to support any one of our patients in making whatever informed decision is best for them,” he said.

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