Thought revenge porn was creepy? Just wait until one hacker ex-boyfriend is all it takes to get you pregnant — or keep you infertile — unknowingly and against your will. Get ready to throw away your birth control pills because, as reported in The Verge, Bill Gates's almighty foundation has decided that the world is ready for contraceptive implants that last for 16 years and are operable by remote.
For what it's worth, the technology behind this development is actually pretty cool. This kind of prototype contraceptive implant bears a surface that, when heated by a tiny battery, becomes temporarily permeable so a bit of the birth control hormones can leak out into the user's system. The convenience would potentially be a boon to American women, who are having children later and for whom getting yearly prescriptions remains a pain in the butt.
On the other hand, issues of security and justice abound. Currently, our ability to design medical devices far outstrips our ability to keep medical devices from being hacked. And there sure is some ambiguity surrounding the moral status of providing different kinds of women with different kinds of birth control. Are we about to see an America in which rich women receive flexible, reversible kinds of birth control and poor women receive long-term and permanent ones? The history of eugenics in America is a complicated and long but ongoing one.
And does the Gates Foundation intend to take this device overseas, like many of its other projects? Technological and medical issues aside, the cultural barriers to making this thing work must be immense. Translation issues may keep women from understanding to what they are committing with this implant. And is it ethical to stick 16 years' worth of anti-baby substance into a childless young woman who may not have access to care later, if and when she wants to start a family?
Maybe the long-term birth control implant will be perfected and well-discussed by the time our daughters might need it. In the meantime, I'll be popping my birth control pills one by one and hoping that the most commonsense birth control innovation of all will finally come to pass: giving the safe and effective pills we already know and love over-the-counter status.