Daniela (she/her/ella) is an MPH student at UNC Chapel Hill studying Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights. She was drawn to MCI due to her passion for reproductive justice and sex positive education. During her practicum at MCI, she will be developing toolkit materials aimed at college students and young adults, as well as creating social media content and a social media engagement plan for the organization.
What have you focused your studies on? How does that relate to male birth control?
As an MPH student, I am focusing on health equity and am interested in equity within the sexual and reproductive health field. To me, health equity is inextricably tied to bodily autonomy; until everyone has the rights and access to healthcare, education, and resources to make informed decisions about their bodies, their lives, and their futures, then we will never truly have bodily autonomy. When it comes to deciding what does and does not happen to your body and your future, birth control has been incredibly important for millions of people over the last half century. However, we have a long way to go to ensure that everyone has a birth control method that works for them, which is what led me to work with MCI this summer.
Why were you excited to work with MCI? What do you see that you bring to MCI?
When I taught sex ed, I would often get questions from students about male birth control: when will there be new methods, are condoms really the only non-permanent options, why is this? Answering them required a lot of Googling on my part because frankly I didn’t know anything about new male contraceptive research and development, and I was fascinated by what I found.
I was excited to work with MCI because I believe in the organization’s vision of “Reproductive Autonomy for All”. As a student on their team this summer, I am excited to bring my social media savvy and experience in sex education in order to create products that will expand MCI’s audience, allies, and advocates.
What skills would you like to learn or develop while with MCI?
I am excited about the projects I will be working on over the summer. I am looking forward to gaining more experience with social media, especially social media content creation and strategy development, as well as building a following across several social media platforms. In creating toolkit materials, I am excited to gain skills around stakeholder and community engagement, data collection and analysis, and educational material development. Across both of these projects, I am happy to be developing multimedia skills such as creating videos and infographics.
What is your connection to, or interest in, contraception?
I am passionate about sexual and reproductive health, so I care a lot about ensuring that people who want contraception have a method that works well for them and that they are able to access.
What do you think are the biggest challenges affecting contraception, generally, and male contraception, specifically?
The biggest challenges affecting contraception are access, equity, and reckoning with the problematic past of contraceptive development, which has led to medical mistrust among marginalized communities that continue to this day. Margaret Sanger, who is credited with opening the first birth control clinic in the U.S., is often thought of as a feminist hero who believed in a woman’s right over her fertility, although it is well documented that her eugenicist beliefs was at least partially the reason she fought for contraception. As the birth control pill was being developed, it was unethically tested on incarcerated individuals, people residing in mental health facilities, and poor Puerto Rican women, none of whom consented or were informed of the pill’s side effects or potential harms. Since then, Black and brown women have experienced forced or coerced sterilizations across the country, and communities of color have been the test subjects of inhumane experiments. Within medical communities, there needs to be a more intentional strategy for acknowledging and seeking to correct the reproductive harms they have inflicted on communities of color.
Along the same lines, as new forms of contraception are being developed for sperm producers, a big challenge will be creating methods that are inclusive and work for all who want them, methods that are accessible, affordable, and culturally acceptable.
Do you think these challenges and opportunities have evolved over time? If so, how?
Like most aspects of health care, birth control continues to be inaccessible to many for a variety of reasons. Despite it being more affordable thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), inequities persist. Many people live far from a healthcare facility, do not have transportation, face language and/or cultural barriers, or have not been educated on methods. As new forms of male contraception are developed, it will be crucial to take all of these inequities and barriers into account and create methods that are accessible, inclusive, and equitably distributed to those who are interested.
What are your hopes for the near and far future of male contraception? What will it take for these to become reality?
My hopes for the future of male contraception is that individuals become advocates for not only male contraception but also for reproductive autonomy more broadly. This is necessary for both the near and far future of male contraception as a base of supporters needs to be established and sustained over time to ensure that male contraceptive options are rolled out.
Learn more about Male Contraceptive Initiative's Fellowship & Internship opportunities here.