I’ll get right to it. A week after a doctor cut into my balls, they’re still uncomfortable. They don’t hurt, not exactly, but I’m very aware of them in a way I wasn’t before. The short version of this story is that I got a routine medical procedure done that made me sterile. The actual operation took about 15 minutes and I didn’t feel much. I did it because my wife and I don’t want kids, it’s an extremely effective form of birth control, and I live in South Carolina, a state that could make my wife’s life hell if she ever got pregnant.
The Monday after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I called a urologist near me about getting a vasectomy. Getting a vasectomy was always somewhere on my list of stuff to do, but it didn’t feel pressing. I figured it would cost too much and knock me on my ass for a while and that I’d get around to it when I got around to it.
It’s good I booked an appointment quickly—demand for the procedure has spiked since the ruling. Clinics around the country have seen a dramatic uptick in requests for the procedure. One clinic in North Carolina is booked for the next three months. There’s even a viral TikTok that’s been viewed more than 4 million times about a man who got a vasectomy for his wife that lives in a red state. The comments section is calling him a hero.
Her losing the Constitutional right to bodily autonomy pressed the issue for me. My wife and I are in our late 30s. We don’t have kids and don’t want them. She has a medical condition that can lead to complications during a pregnancy. I live in South Carolina, where abortion laws are changing rapidly. It’s currently illegal after six weeks, but legislators are working on instituting an outright ban. They probably will. South Carolina is a deeply red state.
One bill working its way through the legislature includes “whistleblower protections” for anyone who tells the authorities about a woman seeking an abortion. “I look forward to the day that we don’t have any abortions in South Carolina, and we won’t need exceptions,” Governor Henry McMasters told reporters in June.
Doctors in anti-abortion states are grappling with the new legal landscape and refusing to treat women with ectopic pregnancies and other complications because they fear running afoul of new, poorly-written laws or old laws that have newly gone back into effect after Roe was overturned. Women in Texas, where I lived a majority of my life, can’t get life-saving medical treatment after miscarriages because of restrictive abortion laws, for example.
In light of all this horror, it seemed the easiest, cheapest, and most foolproof thing to do to protect myself and my wife was to get a vasectomy. We could travel out of state if my wife got pregnant, but who knows what the legality of that will be in South Carolina in the coming months. It would also be much cheaper and less physically and emotionally damaging for me to just get a vasectomy than for her to get an abortion in the future.
It would also, it turns out, be much cheaper. My insurance covered the procedure, but if it hadn’t, I would have paid about $500. According to Planned Parenthood, the cost of a vasectomy is between $0 and $1,000. Again, insurance tends to be pretty generous when it comes to covering the cost of the procedure. The cost of abortion is wildly variable depending on the state of the pregnancy and the state where’s it’s performed. Getting insurance to cover it is its own special nightmare. Friends I’ve spoken with said they’ve paid as much as $750 for abortifacients in red states, but the cost can easily be triple that.
The biggest hurdle to the whole thing, really, was finding a doctor I trusted. My completely anecdotal experience is that urologists are especially strange. I once had a urologist in Texas who had a lot of creationism literature scattered in their waiting room and, unprompted, walked me through a picture book he had on the subject during my appointment.
Looking at the Google Reviews of urologists near me revealed a similar odd pattern of behavior. One helpful review explained that the doctor’s office was full of pamphlets explaining how a baby eating cabal ran the country. Another included a picture of an “insurrectionist shrine” in the foyer. The picture showed a collection of Trump hats lingering in front of a picture of the former President.
I eventually found a well-reviewed urologist who accepted my insurance and booked an appointment. It was over in just a few minutes. “Taking one for the team?” The doctor said after he’d walked into the door. “Well, you’re doing a good thing.” We chatted for a few minutes, he inspected my genitals and told me to shave before the procedure.
A week later, I took a high dose of valium they’d prescribed me and my wife drove me to the hospital where they’d operate. A guy prepared me for surgery, which consisted of disinfecting the area and making a little bib around my twig and berries. Then came the worst part of the whole thing: waiting for the doctor to show up and do the little snip. I was high on valium, my balls and dick cooling in the open air while I listened to Wheatus sing “Teenage Dirtbag” over the radio playing softly in the operating room.
Just as I was learning that Noelle’s boyfriend drives an IROC, the doctor walked in. He and his assistant joked about the song and got to work. If you don’t know what happens during a vasectomy, here it is:
They cooled my balls with a jet of compressed air and then injected them with a local anesthetic. There was a pinch, similar to getting shots anywhere else on your body, and then a brief fire in my balls as the anesthetic went to work. After that, I felt pressure and movement but no pain. It helped that I was on the Valium.
After the local is applied, the doctor cut open the side of each sac and fished around inside for the vas deferens. This is the tube that carries sperm from the testicles into the mixing chambers of my balls to make semen. In a vasectomy, the doctor severs the vas deferens and blocks it. You still make semen, but it doesn’t have sperm in it. I felt him doing all of this, the gentle tugging at various chords inside my body. But again, there was no pain.
It was over in about 10 minutes. The doctor had told me earlier that some men sleep through the procedure. I found that hard to believe at the time, but the Valium dose was pretty high and the pain minimal.
The doctor left and his nurse wrapped my balls in gauze and told me to pull my boxer briefs on as tight as I could. I couldn’t really feel my balls so I flipped the waistband as he asked and pulled up my drawers as far as they could go. I spent the rest of the day laying down on the couch and playing around on my phone.
I’ve been sore since. It’s a dull pain, a low throb. They gave me ketorolac, a non-narcotic painkiller that knocks out the pain with a speed and efficiency I find as shocking as the rest of the procedure. The recovery period hasn’t been bad, overall. For the first few days I wasn’t supposed to do anything strenuous—no lifting anything more than five pounds—and to stay off my feet for as long as possible.
I was able to work the next day, but I did so laying down in bed with a cheap little plastic desk that kept the laptop off my ailing balls. The doctor told me that if everything went well, I’d never see him again. “The people who come back are the people who don’t follow the recovery plan,” he told me as I was walking out the door.
I’ve got three friends who’ve had vasectomies and only one of them went bad and it was because he didn’t rest afterwards. Ideally, you spend as much of the next seven days on your back with your feet up. This speeds along the healing process. A buddy of mine didn’t listen and he went out with friends the night after he’d gotten the surgery. He got an infection. He’s fine now, but it took a long time for him to get over it and it hurt.
But also, he felt so normal after a doctor cut into his balls that he felt he could go out that night. That’s how painless and easy this all is. Like I said at the top, the worst part of the whole process is how aware of the area I am right now. I don’t feel pain, it just occurred to me that I’d forgotten to take the ketorolac this morning. It’s the tight briefs, the weird bruising, and the itchy hair growing back in that are more of a discomfort than anything else.
I was shocked, not just by how quick and pain free it was, but also the attitude of everyone involved. Friends have praised me for doing this before making jokes—all the cheap and easy stuff you’d expect about “getting fixed.”
As I lay on the table with the doctor’s hand rooting around in my scrotum, I thought about an abortion story a friend had told me. It was ten years in a red state. She caught it extremely early. All she needed to do was take a pill. But the process of getting that pill was invasive and maddening. There was a speech about cancer risks from abortion from a nurse who obviously didn’t believe it, a video about adoption options, a week long waiting period, and a transvaginal ultrasound. All to get a pill. It also cost more than the surgery I’d had too.
Her abortion was not the same thing as my vasectomy. But they were both about reproductive health, both personal choices made about the body, and both were routine. It seemed the world bent over backwards to make cutting into my balls as easy as possible. It seemed to do everything it could to make my friend’s pill based abortion as nightmarish as possible.